She's a professional clown, writer and performer who uses character comedy to make her audience laugh out loud while exploring the often unspoken topic of mental illness.
Helen Duff as the would-be TV chef Jill
Character Comedy is not my usual style; which is why I never expected to laugh as much I did, or be as captivated by this performance as I was. When Helen's character Jill wasn't cooking by throwing ingredients around the set or asking us to guess what food she was posing as she does take a break. The stage goes dark, the sound effects dull as an impromptu French art house set (Helen) meets clown persona (Jill) and takes us down a darker road of the artist's own struggles with eating disorders - before a huge smile and burst of light brings her & her audience spinning back into Jill's cookery kingdom.
Talking with Helen herself after the show I realised two things; 1. As Helen believes - celebrating our imperfections is much more satisfying than striving to be perfect,
and 2. Vanity Bites Back is not just Duff's Melbourne debut but her triumph. After years of hard work that included battling her own demons, writing and even studying clowning in France under the dictatorial Philippe Gaulier - the show is bold and bizarre, unlike anything I've ever experienced and you know what? She makes it look easy.
As Jill says "In the kitchen, as in life, you've got to take your pleasures where you can".
So step out of the usual stand-up comedy zone and see something different - **just beware a small amount of audience participation **.
Vanity Bites Back will run 23 shows throughout the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at The Tuxedo Cat from March 25 - April 19. Book tickets here or head in early and pick some up at the door.
Show times are at 6pm Mon-Saturday & 5pm Sundays (no Wednesdays). The Tuxedo Cat is wheelchair accessible.