The title Best Life brought to mind a book by an American clergyman, Joel Osteen, called Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, which was somewhat lampooned in the religious media, if only because living one’s best life ‘now’ means the afterlife is, to put it mildly, a bit of a downer. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with any of his seven steps (enlarge your vision, develop a healthy self-image, discover the power of your thoughts and words, let go of the past, find strength through adversity, live to give, choose to be happy) and in this gentle and reflective show, Tamar Broadbent takes the audience on a journey to where she is now – and most if not all of the seven steps are there somewhere.
Snippets of conversations with her 95-year-old grandmother Joan are included in the show, by way of voice recordings. But for 28-year-old Broadbent, the world has changed, so Joan’s hopes that Broadbent would find a man, settle down and marry, need not necessarily be realised for Broadbent to be contented. There’s a strong sense of cynicism that runs through the performance, which seems to revel in finding humour in the ridiculous. Perhaps the most memorable observation was about an article that apparently claimed that ‘millennials’ are unable to get on the property ladder because they don’t budget properly.
Now, this is a view shared by a couple of flatmates in the apartment block I’m in for my stay at the Edinburgh Fringe. Credit was not as freely available back in the day as it is now, and they recall the days when women required a male guarantor in order to obtain a mortgage. But remarks by Tim Gurner, a Melbourne-based property tycoon, in 2017, rankled Broadbent. His exact words (yes, I looked them up) were, “When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each.” In other words: it’s the millennials’ own fault that they have been dubbed ‘Generation Rent’.
Ball poop, as Elder Price in The Book of Mormon, would put it. Such is Broadbent’s response to the article that she bursts into song, something she does on several occasions during the performance, though this tune is called The Angsty Millennial Avocado Song. Another of her songs is about wanting to be a businesswoman, an admirable ambition at face value. But as the song progresses it becomes clear that there are so many elements about corporate working life, including transport problems (whether one uses road or rail) that can make commuting a nightmare, and the choice that eventually needs to be made between putting in the hours and effort to progress in one’s chosen career path – if that is what one wants to do – and having availability to do other things in life. Later, Broadbent extols the joys of being self-employed, and thus being able to shuffle things around and not have to work to arbitrary targets and deadlines set by senior managers in proverbial ivory towers.
Her lines of arguments are put together so well that it’s difficult to find fault with them (even if one disagrees with them). When she talks about making herself available to assist a good friend, she throws in several caveats without drawing breath. She “will be there”, she says, but that is dependent on how urgent other matters in her life are at any one time. And then there is Instagram, both talked and sung about. A picture paints a thousand words, but as Broadbent recognises, the camera may not lie but the miscellaneous Instagram filter options can bend the truth.
All in all, this is a highly engaging and enjoyable performance. As is said at music gigs when a band has done so well that an audience doesn’t want the show to end, “More!”
Review by Chris Omaweng
Award-winning songwriter Tamar Broadbent is back and this time she’s asking – how do you know if you’re living your best life? If you’re not, how do you go about changing it? This exciting musical comedy about ambition, anxiety and avocados promises to be her best show yet.
Tamar is broke, overwhelmed by life and in a complicated relationship with Netflix. Aims for life – find dream job, change the world, go for brunch! Developed by Tamar and Sara Joyce (Dust, Edinburgh Fringe and Soho Theatre; Win Bin, the Old Red Lion; The Scar Test, Soho Theatre), Best Life brings together mesmerising musical theatre, beautifully written songs and highly relatable observational comedy for which Broadbent’s dedicated Edinburgh audiences love her.
Tamar explores ambition and womanhood in a relevant way, asking how we can find love in the world of modern romance, how to be a ‘good feminist’ and why you mustn’t compare yourself to others… With comedy and a smile, Tamar brings music to issues including sexism in the workplace, class in today’s society and social anxiety.
Tamar Broadbent: Best Life
Performance Dates Thursday 2nd – Sunday 26th August (not 13th), 14:20
Running time 60 minutes
Location Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Laugh), 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JX
Twitter @tamarbroadbent, @jimmy_jewell, @followthecow, @CKPcomedy
Developed by Tamar Broadbent and Sara Joyce
Performed by Tamar Broadbent
Directed by Sara Joyce
Notes Ages 14+