Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Nate, as well as being the title of the show, is the male alter ego of US comic Natalie Palamides. The character is a boorish alpha male and not dissimilar to Dave, the alter ego of Aussie comic Zoe Coombs Marr from her award-nominated 2016 show, as both characters are portraits of toxic masculinity. That said, while both Palamides’s and Marr’s shows deal with some similar themes they are quite different beasts. Marr’s show was way more meta for one, while this show includes more clowning as well as dealing more directly with the nature of consent.

Before getting to any of the serious stuff though, the show starts in ridiculous fashion when Palamides as Nate bursts through the side-door of the venue on a mini-motorcycle to the soundtrack of Bad to the Bone. Nate then does several circuits of the venue before getting off the motorbike. He then proceeds to hump a painting of a penis, eat a raw egg (presumably a sly reference to Palamides’s show last year), smash several pairs of sunglasses as well as other such “macho” antics. It is a hilarious opening segment and one that Palamides milks for every laugh. This sequence also shows off Palamides’s venerable clowning skills.

We are then finally introduced to Nate properly. Nate has a mullet, an oversized handlebar moustache, speaks like a Californian bro-dude and is bare-chested but with a lumberjack shirt on. The character is an obvious macho douchebag but also one Palamides has imbued with a certain vulnerability and goofy charm. This means the audience never seems entirely against him.

As mentioned, the show deals with consent. To demonstrate this, Nate asks a couple of female audience members if “he” can touch their breasts. They both acquiesce, but admit to feeling uncomfortable about it afterwards. Nate is baffled. “What is the problem?” he muses. He did ask after all. It is a clear, and also well-executed, comment on sexual power dynamics. There is also a particular timeliness to the routine given the conversations the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have stirred up in recent times.

Palamides revisits this theme a number of times throughout the show, although in between times there is also plenty of silliness, such as when Nate ends up wrestling a member of the audience while another is wrangled in to playing Nate’s best mate “Lucas”. The latter is particularly funny given the overly complicated special handshake “Lucas” is supposed to know. This becomes one of the shows many entertaining repeated jokes.

Palamides leaves her darkest material until the very end with a rape situation between Nate and his art teacher Miss Jackson, who is “played” by a mannequin. Or is it a rape situation? Palamides deliberately sets the situation up so the lines are blurred and the audience seems split on the nature of the offence.

Last year Palamides won the Best Newcomer Award and with this, at various times clever, timely, surreal, playful, uneasy and uproarious hour it would be no surprise to see her walk away with the main prize this year.