By Cate Tweedie
Back for its fourth season at Perth’s FRINGE WORLD Festival, Comma Sutra is a safe haven for language and grammar lovers. It’s an entertaining educational experience for normal people who aren’t inclined towards correcting people’s pronunciation, and contacting department stores regarding incorrect signage.
This evening of meticulous morphology is presented by Louisa Fitzhardinge: actor, comedian, and self-confessed oxford comma enthusiast. She’s accompanied by associate musician Greg Lavell on piano and piano accordion.
Louisa and Greg take their audience on a journey through the English lexicon and beyond: there’s, a rap about German; a sultry, grammar-oriented serenade; and an entire song dedicated to Dad jokes. While this patriarchal pundemonium might be pun’ishment for some, Fitzhardinge’s audience rolls with the musical pun’ches.
The last song of the night recruits audience members to hold up one of five different flags, denoting the language Fitzhardinge would sing in, and which can be changed mid-sentence or even mid-word. Then ensues multilingual musicality with a tinge of indeterminacy, proving Louisa’s skill as a pentalingual polyglot.
Both Fitzhardinge and Lavell perform with skill and stylistically-appropriate tone. This was made particularly clear when Fitzhardinge’s microphone cut out mid-song due to a technical error, and she continued seamlessly, with enough projection and vocal prowess to be heard without amplification. The pair make their performances look effortless.
The most emotional moment of the night is a Playschool-style song about a little bookworm, through which Fitzhardinge tells a story of her youth, feeling outcast because of her nerdy tendencies. It has a sweet ending, the bookworm finding solace in reading, and gaining knowledge until she is able to find her community of fellow bookworms. This song brought the show from a musical comedy to a deeper level of understanding human emotion and forming connection, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Comma Sutra is so loved.
I was particularly fortunate to be chosen for some classic Fringe audience participation. This led to the special privilege of Louisa improvising a limerick about me on stage, which was beyond exciting, and made the show that much more memorable.
Comma Sutra’s capacity for audience interaction, storytelling, musical performance, and glockenspiel-playing is unique and endearing. With only two musicians on stage the entire performance, it is intimate and impactful. The people seated next to me had seen the show last year, and I’m sure they weren’t the only ones. Louisa’s style of comedy is unique, niche, yet accessible to most English language-speakers.
Comma Sutra is beautifully crafted. Genuine and utterly hilarious, Louisa and Greg will have you laughing at linguistics, chortling at commas, and sniggering at semantics.
Comma Sutra is showing at Downstairs at the Maj until the 8th of February. You can buy tickets here.
Five oxford commas out of five
Cate is terrified of potential grammatical mistakes in this review.
Image courtesy of FRINGE WORLD Festival
Woodside Petroleum is a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD Festival. Pelican has been a long-time supporter of the Festival, and will continue to show its support. However, the Magazine feels it is unethical for Woodside Petroleum to remain a principal sponsor of FRINGE WORLD, given the current climate emergency, and Woodside’s ongoing contribution to climate change.
Other Festivals have demonstrated that ethical sources of funding are possible – you can read more, and sign the petition, here: https://www.change.org/p/fringeworld-side-with-the-climate-and-drop-woodside-petroleum // #fossilfreefringe #fossilfreearts // Arts and Cultural Workers for Climate Action