Comedian Anh Do live on stage at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on Friday night presenting his show The Happiest Refugee.
Comedian Anh Do live on stage at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on Friday night presenting his show The Happiest Refugee. lesley apps

REVIEW: Big night out serves up rollercoaster of emotions

THERE were laughs and tears. Both happy and sad as those who ventured out to Grafton's Saraton Theatre discovered by the rollercoaster of emotions conjured up on Friday night.

With two big shows to choose from in the 25th anniversary screening of Flickerfest and Anh Do's acclaimed The Happiest Refugee, both served up huge doses of the human spirit and all its foibles through entertaining and heart-wrenching story lines, teamed with intimate and intriguing footage.

Mixing stand-up with story-telling, moments of sadness and hardship with incredibly funny situations, Anh ensured there were recovery smiles at every corner

In an attempt to indulge in both offerings, the film festival kicking off at 7pm and Anh at 8pm, the crowd that turned up to fill Cinema 3 for Flickerfest was a promising start.

The first few film offerings served up were a treat. Slingshot was a colourfully funny take on caravan park life and holidays, while the satirical Detectives of Noir Town, where people mixed with puppets, was also a charming hoot.

Flat Daddy was the first to get the waterworks going with its unusual but powerful take on losing a dad to a war while the funny but endearing Lazy Boy offered both belly laughs and welled up eyeballs.

While the festival was a roll, vacating the seat was a must as Anh's adventure was about to start in the main cinema (by all accounts the remaining few films were just as good as eye witnesses testified).

After a warm up by a comedian, the star of the show took centre stage and the audience was taken on the ride of his life.

In among the huge laughs gleaned from his perfect delivery of observational humour and the hilarious footage of his Jackass style stunts, it was his personal take on growing up in Australia after escaping the Vietnam war with his family that showcased the humbleness and appreciation that was at the foundation of this show.

Mixing stand-up with story-telling, moments of sadness and hardship with incredibly funny situations, Anh ensured there were recovery smiles at every corner throughout the evening but certainly gave the emotional meter a real nudge, as did he do to himself on occasion.

It was obvious by the end he inherited a great deal of his humour and drive to be the best person he could from his parents, particularly his mother, as he shared photographs from his family album and private moments that helped shaped him to be The Happiest Refugee.

While the successes he has enjoyed later in life have been abundant, he is a lawyer, Archibald finalist, won Comedian of the Year and Australian Book of the Year as well as making the grand final of Dancing with the Stars despite having two left feet, the most heartbreaking image of his entire show was flashed up on screen very early, a photograph taken from above a boatload of little bodies lying on top of one another in their underpants packed in like the proverbial sardines. All alive but with stoneless faces plastered with the fear of the unknown. It was the only really confronting point of the show, where the gravity of what Anh and the thousands like him endured to get to this country, was illustrated. And while he didn't mince his words he didn't dwell on his misfortunes, instead using them little by little to be a better person, one who genuinely appreciates every opportunity that has come his way.



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