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Claire Sullivan - Toast Rat

6 April 2021 | 10:33 am | Joe Dolan

"One of Melbourne’s greatest underground performers."

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When Claire Sullivan takes to the stage, audiences pay attention. Even when the Tasmania-born comic has obscured herself with whale-print bedding and holding a homemade cardboard sign, it’s hard not to look on in enraptured bewilderment. It’s abundantly clear from this vision that greets her audience that Toast Rat will not be the standard MICF affair. Or, if you’re a fan of Sullivan’s work already - business as usual.

Unlike Sullivan’s past performances, however, her 2021 offering is largely narrative driven and tracks the last few years of the standup’s life. Having lost her dad to cancer in 2019, Sullivan reflects on the hardships of watching someone you love become a shell of their former selves and the dizzying array of conflicting emotions that got along with it. Guilt, pain, anger and even relief, the hyperchromatic tapestry of grief is perfectly on display throughout her hour onstage.

Of course, the regular Sullivan antics are still plentiful - from a crazed and bloodied fortune teller to the eponymous Toast Rat himself - but, if anything, the stark contrast to the raw authenticity make these vignettes shine brighter than they ever could have before. 

To balance the silly, disconnected world of surrealist sketch with an unmasked truth that exposes the performer is damn near impossible to pull off: almost always it comes off as either flippant or insincere. But here, in the hands of someone like Sullivan, nothing is out of place. The rollercoaster of Toast Rat, like the grieving process itself, is heartbreaking and beautiful in equal measure.

The delicate dance of this show is a testament to the skills of one of Melbourne’s greatest underground performers. Hilarious, harrowing, brilliant and just plain fun, Toast Rat has been honed and crafted to pure perfection.