Created by: Donna Brookbanks
BATS Theatre, 14th May 2019
Reviewed by: Annabella Gamboni
Auckland comic and 2019 Billy T Award nominee Donna Brookbanks fancies herself a bit of a superhero, and maybe she is.
Prompted by a disembodied robot voice, Brookbanks tells us all about her super alter-ego Captain Moggy. Over 45 minutes, we meet her feline sidekick Cat Stevens (Stevie for short); learn about her great weakness, a lactose intolerance; and encounter her dastardly nemeses Saboteur and Imposter. You see, Brookbanks is a superhero, but she’s like, a relatable one.
While the show has a structure more like a piece of theatre (complete with characters and costumes), it also strikes up an easy-breezy flow more akin to a traditional stand-up set. It’s a pretty cutesy framing device, and sometimes I want Brookbanks to lean in harder to the cheese of it all, but she pulls it off largely thanks to her very natural charisma.
The comic is one of the most instantly likeable people I’ve seen on the stand-up circuit. Brookbanks best jokes combine the wit of an overthinker with the ease of girlfriends chatting over a Thursday jug of sangria. Interestingly, some of her material about sex and her own body – traditional fodder for lady comedians, I suppose – doesn’t quite land with the BATS audience. It’s not that the material is tired per se; it was more that this audience wasn’t on board with laughing at Brookbanks appetite and larger-than-a-size-eight body.
What I found really interesting about Heroic was the way it segues into Brookbanks spotty mental health, particularly her struggles with social anxiety. These moments were points of vulnerability in an otherwise hammy show, and I’m not sure they worked together cohesively. However, on their own, they were striking, and I would have liked to have sat with sad, self-doubting Brookbanks longer. Her social anxiety doesn’t make her any less funny; it lends weight to her everygirl schtick.
Heroic is a really fun, uplifting show, but I can’t help thinking that we’ll see Brookbanks flying higher than this with future works. I can’t wait to see what she does next.