Adam Hills – Shoes Half Full

By Erin Hill 

Full disclosure, I have been a long-time fan of Adam Hills. Back in the day, I’d watch Spicks and Specks with my mum, not knowing much about the music but every now and then Hamish Blake would be on it, and I always thought that was pretty rad.

My interest spilled out into watching recordings of his stand up, and avidly watching his joyous coverage of the Paralympics. But until this show I had never seen Adam Hills perform live. Of one thing I am sure, Shoes Half Full won’t be the last.

Something that struck me was the masterstroke of keeping the lights dimly up throughout the show. That accompanied with the audience interaction made the whole show feel like less of a performance and more of a story told by the campfire by a family friend with a particular way with words. Hills drew upon, with well-honed precision all those tiny shared experiences of last year; comparing those who went through Melbourne’s lockdown to shell-shocked veterans; “You weren’t there, man! You weren’t there!”

Shoes Half Full was written for the festival in 2019, and Hills largely sticks to the show he intended to perform then, with slight but fitting alterations taking into account the year that was. As is a staple of Hills’ stand up, the audience informs the performance each night, ensuring that every show is different. Another comforting motif of Hills’ performing style is the unapologetic optimism of the show. Hills delivers hopeful, earnest content about family, travel (remember travel?), disability and life in general.

Shoes Half Full explores how to navigate restraint when you are a self-confessed child, and knowing when is the right time to say No. The show also examines the merit of listening to expand your understanding of issues facing those with different life experiences. Hills advises that there is no need to shout; but I’d call this an exception. Shout it from the rooftops, Shoes Half Full is a wonderful, warm and hilarious show.

You can see Shoes Half Full at the Athenaeum Theatre until April 18th.