Sometimes audiences forget that after the curtains are closed, the spotlights dimmed, and the entertainer steps off the stage, they’re rarely the same person they were two seconds ago. The expression ‘never meet your heroes’ exists because people fancy merging an artist’s creative expression and their everyday self into one when most often, that’s not the case. With Diana Nguyen, that couldn’t seem further from the truth. In Dirty Diana, it feels as if the Vietnamese comic is just having a conversation with you from the stage.
Some acts and their show titles descend you into a pit of uncertainty as well. You sit there in anticipation, a perpetual guessing game of perspiration and doom. Nguyen’s having none of that awkwardness. She springs out grinning chin to chin as Christina Aguilera’s Dirty thunders mightily all around us, the comic’s hips gyrating aggressively and arms oscillating wildly.
She gets stuck in on the dirty immediately – like when her mom banished her to their backyard because she’d hid a boy in her closet, to all sorts of roles on TV she’s been token-ly handed. “Thai flight attendant? Random Japanese person? Same same,” she quips.
Nguyen’s presence is calm and collected, sans boogies, relying on anecdotal nightmares to guide her chaotic storytelling as she laments her plights as a minority in a skewed industry. She’s a veteran of the entertainment business and a backer for Asian and Vietnamese diversity, but recognises that she is the bearer of that change, too.
In celebration of landing a proper, non-stereotyped acting role in 2019 after 14 laborious years in the industry, she insists on rapturous high fives from everyone present and actually gets off stage to do it. A bit like that wouldn’t work if, say, you don’t buy that comic’s crap. But Nguyen’s raw, bona fide stories sing of a woman whose earnest ambitions fuel her punch lines. The audience quickly recognises and empathises with her struggles as a minority wanting to sway industry trends and invoke real change – shattering glass ceilings and disapproving Asian mums. She also wants her own mum to stop finding her used condoms, and stop bothering her about having children before it’s too late.
Nguyen opens the show with just three facts about herself, but by the end, we’ve seen her dance her funky numbers, horribly translate a Vietnamese wedding and understand her Tinder habits, and it feels like we’ve made a close comrade along the way.
Not many bare their heart, soul, and childhood nightmares of Pauline Hanson whilst growing up as a minority in fear of deportation so openly on stage, and with such merry, but Nguyen wears her heart on her sleeve. And occasionally nothing at all on stage, to the disappointment of her less liberal mum. “Why couldn’t you just be a pharmacist like everyone else?”. She’s just getting started, and the world hasn’t seen enough of naughty Nguyen just yet.
Highlight: Her rendition of ‘Don’t Stop The Tingles’, a Justin Timberlake spin-off about, well, the tingles.
Lowlight: Sometimes cluttered and confusing segues from story to unfinished story.
Crowd favourite: Every time she broke out into dance/song. It’s time to boogie people!