“KNOCKOUT HUMOUR AND WISTFUL OBSERVATION”

NZ HERALD
OCTOBER 10, 2003
FILLER UP! REVIEW, MAIDMENT THEATRE
by Pete Calder, Theatre Critic

COMEDY: Expatriate treasure leavens intelligent meditation on hunger with hilarious one-liners.

You just need to look at the title to know that you’re in for something special: it’s an utterly unforced pun (the writer and performer is the mostly expatriate comic treasure Deb Filler and the piece is about food) and it’s a ringingly idiomatic phrase, instantly recognisable to compatriots she hasn’t seen for a while and audiences farther afield as well.

Welcome back, Deb. It has been too long.

Her last solo show, PUNCH ME IN THE STOMACH, seen here in the early 90s, still echoes in the memory as a dangerously funny and astringently sad memoir of her upbringing as the daughter of a Holocaust camp survivor (Sol, may he rest in peace).

FILLER UP! Has the same utterly winning blend of humour and wistful observation. The 90-minute solo show fills the Maidment (without benefit of amplification) with hilarious reminiscences in which the performer incarnates several dozen characters, some only for a second or two.

Mostly, as befits someone from a family where cookbooks are serious literature, the stories are about food, but they are leavened with hilarious one-liners (she eats eight ounces of chocolate a day because it decreases her chances of getting prostate cancer) and vignettes (the day Operation Rescue picketed Weight Watchers HQ).

Through these observations – sly or pointed, or brutal or dense with aching compassion – there leaks a well-worked riff about the tyranny wrought (on women in particular) by the cult of body image. But what sets FILLER UP! apart is that there is much more. When she recalls (sparingly) her father and his assurance that she never knew what it was to be hungry, we know she’s for real.

The show becomes, like the best comedy, something verging on the tragic: an intelligent and evocative meditation on appetite and hunger.

Filler is a performer of boundless charm and quite devoid of conceit.

The show, plainly refined and improved through constant performance, is a knock-out. Miss it at your peril.