The Melbourne Fringe hosts the premiere of This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, the new show from Gillian Cosgriff. The title comes from the parental lament that immaturity and thoughtlessness are the natural enemies of a desirable object. Happily the Fringe means we can be impulsive and still have nice experiences, such as this musical chronicle of (mis)adventures that was filled with easy opening-night laughter.
Last year I was very satisfied to finally see Cosgriff in Waitressing … and Other Things I Do Well, a show that did some serious touring, including the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. That offering gave us a selection of songs written and performed by Cosgriff, mostly from behind a piano, on her uncertain times post-graduation. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things gives us tunes from the next phase of her life and shows that her act has developed.
It’s tempting to compare the latest show with an instalment of the 7 Up documentary series. Cosgriff, now 26, seems to have liberated herself from waitressing and given herself more time for other interests. Autobiographically inspired selections cover drinking and drunk phone messages, procrastination, international travel, boyfriends who aren’t quite as perfect as they first appeared, and respectably-vague one-nighters.
Additions to this outing are a song with a new instrument and the confidence to get out from behind her keyboard and deliver a monologue. For me, a significant strand of Cosgriff’s appeal lies in her courage to sneak in songs that go beyond the laughs of embarrassing situations. A tune on needing to become an adult by 30 was very relatable fun, and in a song to her 16-year-old self, Cosgriff shared distillations of earned experience that achieved a pure emotional moment.
While selected tracks from Cosgriff’s previous outing are online and on an EP, it seems we don’t yet have this for her new show. This is unfortunate as I already want to hear the songs again. I wonder if Cosgriff will consider allowing us to have a nice thing to take home, just this once, if we promise to behave and tell friends about her show?