It comes as absolutely no surprise that Geraldine Hickey is a very funny comedian. Astute observations delivered in Hickey’s gently wry tone kept the audience chuckling for the hour. But what did come as a very welcome surprise was how genuine and heart-warming What a Surprise was.
Hickey opens the show with the necessary 2020 disclaimer, acknowledging that the show was written B.C. (Before COVID). The show largely centres on Hickey’s experience of turning forty, and navigating the “surprise” birthday party she forced her partner to throw. Hickey’s recollections of previous years of hastily-thrown-together last-minute parties, fielding text message after text message of apologies and well-wishes struck a particular nerve; eliciting a guttural laugh of recognition.
It brought about an odd sense of nostalgia to recall all the social faux pas that come with birthdays you can spend around other people; like how do you mention it without coming across like a five-year-old, and how do you manage your expectations when it comes to the calibre of “surprise” event? Hickey’s observation that even at the age of forty, your idea of the highest level of excellence and prestige can still be ‘the presence of a bouncy castle’ was truly inspiring.
What a Surprise also speaks to what it means to be in a relationship and the things we do to please, delight and surprise the people we care about. Hickey’s tale of her determination to acquire a ring from the elusive “hairy finger man of Instagram’ is worth the price of admission alone. Brief glimpses into inside jokes between Hickey and her now fiancé, snapshots over years of a relationship highlight the trust Hickey places in her audience. In kind, that trust speaks to Hickey’s prowess; a seasoned performer who has faith in her own ability to get the audience on side.
What a Surprise was a joy to behold. Hickey makes sharp observations with finesse and apparent ease. The stories she shared remind us of a time when a thrill-seeking activity meant zip-lining and not drawing blood in Woolies over a packet of Kleenex Cottonelle. But the unexpected feeling walking out of the show is the overwhelming sense of warmth and sweetness Hickey manages to impart in just one hour. What a Surprise is a pleasant surprise in that.
What a Surprise at The Supper Room in Melbourne Town Hall until April 18