It is a difficult thing to bring a show to the Free Fringe, even more difficult when the subject matter you have chosen is the grief process following the death of your own father. Nonetheless, Australian, Natalie Harris, has billed her show, Good Grief, as a stand-up/storytelling show which will cover the five stage grief model theorised by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Comedy and death? Intriguing.
Unfortunately for Harris, although the show meets the remit for storytelling, and there are some quite nice little anecdotes from her dad’s life, this is not stand-up. It’s just not funny. There are some muffled giggles at sporadic points throughout but these come more from her ability to spin a yarn than to spin a joke.
However, the small audience are supportive and fully sympathise when, after two previous walk-outs, she asks a man in the front row who has spent the entire show on his phone if he could switch it off or leave. Everyone is behind her at this decision. It is the height of rudeness for both performer and audience to not be able to detach yourself from a mobile device for 50 minutes, and to sit directly in front of the artist when doing so is a whole new level of theatre faux pas.
The incident knocks Harris off her stride and she is clearly emotional as she struggles to pull the final segments (depression and acceptance, ironically) together. The show ends with a sweet tribute to her Nana, also passed, which turns out to be one of the high points of the set.
If the thread of the show had been consistent and there had been a few more laughs this might start to become a Fringe success. As it is Nat Harris may have to contend with a few more walk-outs based on the mis-selling of the piece as comedy, but I do hope for her sake that audience goers have the courtesy to stay off their phones!