Shiralee Hood brings a cracking wit to her Kulin-centric tour of Naarm for her Comedy Festival Show, says Monique Grbec
Naarm is a regular top five on the world’s most liveable cities because of people like the 2009 Deadly Funny winner Shiralee Hood. In Black Woman Walking at Storyville, for Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2021, Hood gives us a Kulin-centric tour of her life, from being born just down the road at Queen Victoria Hospital to the Covid-19 lockdowns. While they’re not in chronological order, the sketches follow an ebb and flow of pun-fuelled, whip-cracking wit, with a hug-safe invitation to spend some time in her slick black boots.
The Last Kinection’s Black and Deadly energises the room. Introduced as “the sexiest bitch around,” Hood comes on stage with an electric slide. The synchronised promise of hip hop cabaret ends too soon, but musical themes re-emerge in different healing-focused guises: a sing-a-long lesson of Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes in Noongar, Hood’s paternal language; and from her Stolen Generations maternal side, the musicals such as Annie and Oliver Twist are introduced to explain pain, and to transform and distract.
Brrrr: the flutter-tongued technique of a wind instrument player is a vibration of Country with which Hood signals the beginnings and ends to sketches.
Brrrr: her hands splay outward like a bird ruffling feathers. In isolation during the Covid-19 lockdown, Hood gave up smoking and alcohol, replacing them by teaching herself piano. Like a concert pianist, Hood’s eyes close to see and feel the inner magic of the music that she creates. Hood knows the power of her focused presence: the regal grace of her demeanour is a moment of sublime beauty. For the audience, time stands still: transcends. In another time and place, we could be watching the greatest pianist of all time.
Then the bubble bursts and Hood’s rap persona fires off rhymes that checklist all the mad and manic entry points of addiction. She’s “off the wagon”. Her mind alive and wired, she invents SH – an acronym for Shiralee Hood – the multi-purpose spray that smells good, and when it’s sprayed – “shhhhhh” – dissolves drama. “Shhhhh”. Hood holds us with her gaze.
“You can’t hear kids anymore.” From a place of stillness, Hood says that along with her tribe of Koorie Kardashians, she’s joined the ifamily. In a “Battle of the Apps” she suggests getting the kids off the screens by chucking their phone high up into a tree so they’ll have to climb up after it. If there’s an accident, hope that the phone falls out of the tree so that you can use it to call an ambulance.
Brrrr: Hood is energised by being in front of an audience. For NAIDOC Week Always Was, Always Will Be 2020 at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Hamer Hall, Hood performed without an audience and under physical distancing restrictions – “20 minutes of talking to yourself.” In Black Woman Walking, 50 minutes flies by with reciprocal energy. The audience is quick to laugh out loud, keen to learn about Aboriginal experience, and energised by how Hood’s tracking in this big, white world.
Black Woman Walking, Shiralee Hood, Storyville, 185 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, for Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Until April 18. Bookings
There is no wheelchair access
Licensed venue: no under 18s permitted