Reviewed by Eilis Lee.
As someone who has been labelled “aggressively nice” throughout my life, I went into a preview of Izzy Mant’s Polite Club expecting the show to be very much my cup of tea—and I was not disappointed. Mant, producer of TV sitcoms like Peep Show, The Windsors and the classic Harry & Paul, takes a problem that many of us face—a culturally ingrained over-politeness—and from it carves out an hour of consistent laughs. Not only did I find her subject matter comically apt for myself, but I’m a sucker for any kind of PowerPoint backdrop, so the moment I saw a screen emblazoned with a distinctly stock image of smiling, happy, and excessively polite people, I knew I was in for a good time.
An extremely high-energy start, replete with a fantastic (and hilariously fitting) walk-out song, was followed by an equally animated set. Friends pop up in well-timed video interludes to recount their worst, funniest manners-based kerfuffles: from waving to the bus driver who ran into you to tales of excruciatingly awkward prostate exams, Polite Club has it all.
The packed audience didn’t take long to warm up, either, thanks to Mant’s confident, skilful building of smaller observational bits around her broader, contemplative questions. Relationship issues were at the core of Polite Club, but weren’t hugely clichéd – instead, they were viewed through the lens of her manners: did many of her past relationships stumble because her partners were all terrible people, Mant asks, or was her characteristic niceness to blame?
Between impromptu, crease-worthy dance numbers and a final, ridiculous climax, Mant throws herself into Polite Club, and it really pays off. By the show’s end, the audience were in her pocket, and so was I; I especially loved the moments focusing on a dolphin-voiced careers coach, Mant’s impression of which is a real highlight, as well as her creative use of certain male celebrities.
Polite Club is imaginative, energetic, and simply good fun. And to top it off, I now have a fitting mandate for all those like Mant and I, who find ourselves stuck because we’re too damn polite. A motto for these troubled times: embrace your inner, sweary Australian dad.
Izzy Mant: Polite Club runs at Dexter Room, Underbelly Bristo Square at 14:50 until 26th August.