TV ‘Nanette’ by Hannah Gadsby
The result is breathtaking, even on repeat watches. Nanette is a stunning demonstration of unerring formal skills applied to the raw, ineradicable pain of being different.
“Nobody here,” says Hannah Gadsby midway through her astonishing stand-up show Nanette, “is leaving this room a better person.”
She’s right. One of the enduring misconceptions about art is that it makes you a better person (or, if it happens to be decadent art, it makes you a worse one). If art of any kind were that magic, the world would be a very different place.
If it’s very good, art does something else: it invites you to reflect. And perhaps then, in tandem with a lot of other imponderables, it may change the way you act in the world. It may even change your life. Nanette is the kind of art made by someone who has no fucks left to give, who has decided, whatever the cost, that she will tell her truth.
Gadsby is, as she tells us, very good at what she does. She knows how to write a complex script that weaves multiple narratives through an architecture of thought. As a performer, she knows how far she can stretch tension and precisely when to release it. She lays out her tools of trade for our examination, and judges them as wanting.
All her professional life, she tells us, has been about humiliating herself for the pleasure of others, and now she’s not going to do that anymore. And then she tells us why.
The result is breathtaking, even on repeat watches. Nanette is a stunning demonstration of unerring formal skills applied to the raw, ineradicable pain of being different in a society that punishes that difference.
“I will never flourish,” Gadsby says desolatingly towards the end. Some wounds change the very structure of your being. But, as Nanette demonstrates, if you survive being broken, there are things beyond it: generosity, perceptiveness, pride, connection and, most of all, courage. Courage won’t change the world by itself, but nothing will change without it.