Australian comedian Laura Davis has some very niche and endearing enthusiasms. Bus journeys fill her with childlike joy, for example, and she is a member of no less than 150 Facebook groups dedicated to moth identification. Her show at this year’s Fringe, Better Dead Than a Coward explores both of these interests, among other preoccupations, and the novel venue, Bob’s Blundabus, could not be more appropriate. The top deck, occasionally rocking slightly in the wind, is an intimate space, so it’s a good job Davis is so skilled in crowd control and getting the audience on side. The amusing opening of her set establishes a personal connection between performer and audience and cleverly serves as a kind of disclaimer – if you behave inappropriately on this bus, you will be asked to leave. She may have some adorably quirky interests and hobbies, but, pleasingly, Laura Davis is neither cutesy nor twee.
Davis is an assured and engaging performer, who presents exactly the right balance between whimsy and serious. The structure of the show is satisfying and Davis’ talent for creating novel and original material is showcased throughout. A fast-paced section about dogs is particularly witty, and all of the moth-based content is nothing less than inspired. The premise that we are more motivated by exposure to our enemies than our friends leads us down some hilarious paths. While her more overtly political material sometimes lacks the quality and precision of the lighter stuff, one joke about abortion is sublime, and incontrovertible evidence of Davis’ mastery of her craft. Topic-wise, she touches on all nearly of this years’ big hitters, such as eco-anxiety, Boris Johnson, gender representation and body confidence. These areas of discussion may feel well-worn to audiences at this stage of the festival, but Davis manages to put a fresh and unique spin on nearly all of them.