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Cath Styles keeps things authentic with 'Accidental Cougar'

★★★★

It was an intimate show, atop a bustling bar. A kind of second-hand quiet and respite from the Saturday madness exploding below. We were in the close company of Cath Styles, ever comfortable adorning the stage. She talked dating at 50, the absurdity of growing old, of gravity, and the realisation that your once favourite jokes have become a reality. This was Accidental Cougar, and it didn’t miss a beat.

Styles’ approach bares all, where others might flinch when laying out their human imperfections and insecurities, Styles sees opportunity. A chance to externalise the internal anxiety monster, have it disburse in the subsequent rumble of laugher. It’s a process of seizing back mastery, lest the former elements drive you mad. And it’s a course the audience is elated to take up. Many of Styles’ admissions and punchlines bring laughs of recognition from the audience, “I know!” They say. As well as many of relief, an instant solidarity with another of life’s experienced travellers, halting momentarily to laugh at the absurdity of life.

And it’s this philosophy that underpins much of the show. Behind every audacious misfortune, or sad realisation, is a personality all too willing to see the funny side. See a gag where Styles sketches out the clubbing and dating landscape in Bendigo. She qualifies by saying that there are about three clubs, and she has four early adult boys. The danger of seeing them out at the bar, while out on the prowl, what could go wrong? Naturally though, she admits she’s devised a roster system, one night for the boys, and one for mum –and of course, this punchline elicits plenty of hearty laughs.

While Styles’ is equally as nifty on the one-liners, a few about dating apps and Tinder spring to mind, it’s the longer set-ups that stand out. Here, the honest delivery and gradual pacing reel the audience in close, left long enough to marinate, before boiling over at the inevitable climax.

Her bit about the dating odyssey to Johannesburg, was brilliantly paced. A piece that involved her going on trip, falling in love, and then going back again to stumble open a much-unexpected surprise.

Overall it’s an authentic delivery. Styles seems keen to illustrate the madness and tribulations of her own life, and give the recipe to take it in stride. The ingredients: an inclination to laugh, resilience and an affirmation that one has a right to be happy. And on that front, Styles did firmly orient us, the audience, to that more fruitful of philosophies.

By Matthew Toohey