Live Review: Catherine Cohen, Jordan Barr @ The Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne

10 November 2023 | 11:18 am | Joe Dolan

It’s hard to imagine Cohen being any funnier, even if she wasn’t severely sleep-deprived.

Catherine Cohen

Catherine Cohen (Source: Supplied/BOHM Presents)

More Catherine Cohen More Catherine Cohen

It’s always a tall order to take on the role of warm-up act for an international touring comedian but from minute one, local legend Jordan Barr has the rowdy Wednesday night punters in the palm of her hand.

Barr’s uniquely terse delivery may be a little unexpected for those unfamiliar, but her dry comedic stylings are perfectly undercut by an overtly cheerful and smiley demeanour (something she uses to her own advantage when she apparently needs to counteract any semblance of sexiness).

She may not be quite as well known as tonight’s headliner, but Barr is more than capable of keeping her and notching out her own space on the stage. There’ll be plenty of new fans in attendance.

Catherine Cohen’s debut sojourn to Aus was announced all the way back in 2019 before the world went “all random” (her words), and her run at the 2020 Melbourne International Comedy Festival never came to fruition. Four years later, and her legion of adoring fans are champing at the bit to see the cabaret/stand-up sensation finally take to the stage.

As she makes her way through the audience, accompanied by the incomparable David J. Andrew on keys, the crowd explodes into a clamorous explosion of stomps and cheers. Never has a show title been more on the money than Come For Me - as this crowd is absolutely here for her.

Right off the bat, Cohen apologises for her even greater-than-usual frenetic energy: the star is still battling the effects of jet lag and admits she likely won’t even remember her time on stage tonight. It’s an unnecessary caveat, however, as every single moment is packed with purposeful comedy and not a single moment goes by without a perfect gag. It’s hard to imagine her being any funnier, even if she wasn’t severely sleep-deprived.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

What Cohen brings to the stage is so pristine and realised that it borderlines an immersive theatrical experience. Her over-the-top “quirky” persona is a brilliantly pointed guise to lead into songs about blaming astrology on your own shortcomings and the illusion of first love. While certain aspects are character-driven in their farcicality, the comic’s humour is grounded in authentic, almost raw sincerity.

One moment, she’s pulling back the curtain on her times in therapy; the next, she’s revelling in the best/worst photo she sent to loved ones whilst high on mushrooms. A left turn into her own body image issues will suddenly ricochet into a round of pseudo-earnest poetry that is as cringe-inducing as it is hilarious. It’s a perfect blend of reality and absurdity wherein one elevates the other and becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Regardless of the cross-continental haze making her think otherwise, Cohen is in perfect form tonight. What could have easily been a lacklustre effort is instead an unmissable hour from a woman who takes the 21st-century Damsel In Distress motif and warps it into a bedazzled feminist icon—sheer perfection.