Fringe review: Jennifer Wong Has No Peripheral Vision

Jennifer Wong transmutes her diagnoses of depression and degenerative eye disease into a quick-flowing hour of self-deprecating, hilariously absurd situational stand-up. ★★★★½

Mar 16, 2023, updated Mar 16, 2023

It’s easy to warm to Sydney-based comedian Jennifer Wong. On a small corner stage in the intimate space of Prompt Creative on Pirie Street, she makes you feel as though you’re in her living room while she regales you with her seamless, gentle flow of self-referential anecdotes, peppered here and there with happily groan-inducing puns and well-timed, heart-tugging moments of vulnerability.

Wong may be the only person in the room with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that causes a gradual loss of vision, and not all audience members might have experienced chronic depression, but she tempers these challenging life situations with chucklesome comedy and a courageous dose of vulnerability that renders her performance instantly relatable, and the performer herself immediately likable.

Don’t let her gentle demeanour fool you, though – beneath it lies a razor-sharp intellect and whip-smart improvised wordsmithery.

The hour is packed with a range of seemingly disparate topics that loop, sometimes in unexpected and surreal ways, back to the main premise of her show – those troublesome health challenges – but it never descends into the maudlin. Wong raises questions such as: Why do so many men on dating sites picture themselves holding a fish? Why is there no Coke machine at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko? What does it mean when your ex’s mother gifts you with nail clippers?

Wong takes us with deceptive ease from an anecdote about turning up to an engagement party she knew she’d been invited to by accident, to pondering why two-step authentication methods aren’t more entertaining and individualised. She provides creative examples for the latter – a rapid-response opportunity to create puns instead of clicking on image squares showing trucks or traffic lights by segueing into rapid-fire improv, asking audience members for suggestions for food, professions and hobbies. Sushi and teaching? Curry and cycling? She never misses a punny beat.

For all Wong’s struggles to find love, deal with depression or come to terms with her fading eyesight, there’s a solid core of skilled professionalism beneath the vulnerability. She’s a writer, MC and presenter of ABC’s AACTA-nominated show about regional Chinese restaurants, Chopsticks or Fork? Well-acquainted with Adelaide as curator of OzAsia Festival’s In Other Words program, she’s performed in Australia, Edinburgh and Shanghai, and writes about mental health, food and cultural identity for the ABC and SBS, among others.

Most of all, there’s something deeply human and moving beneath her non-stop humour. Make sure to catch her before her final show this Sunday – you won’t regret it.

Jennifer Wong Has No Peripheral Vision is at Prompt Creative Centre until March 19.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.

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