Annabel Crabb knows one thing to be true: a person’s relationship with food says a lot about them. In an impressive 25 years of combining her love of food with politics, she’s picked up plenty of insights to fill a Fringe show. Unfortunately, Crabb doesn’t satisfy the audience’s desire for the grit and gossip we expected from the seasoned journo. 

Starting strong, we see Crabb’s daughter come out in her place, dressed in a curly wig and Crabb’s signature cat eye frames. Young Crabb does a stellar job of opening the show, jokingly pretending to hang up on Penny Wong (which Annabel insists she wouldn’t dare), and rummaging through her handbag for the essentials: a spice mix and many, many pens. 

Crabb then spends the hour taking us through a presentation of her career findings with personal anecdotes thrown in. She quips about the era of Australia’s “prime ministerial asset recycling scheme” – the years spanning Rudd, Gillard, Rudd again, Abbott and Turnbull – with wit. 

Recalling her ABC television series Kitchen Cabinet, she name-drops a former treasurer who still had the plastic on his oven and couldn’t find the cutlery drawer after eight years of occupying his home. In the obligatory Adelaide references, she refers to the saucy cookbook written by former Premier Don Dunstan and reveals the Tiser journo who enjoyed the pork crackle from the press gallery chip machine so much so that he was basically salt-preserved. 

In these moments of humour, we see what the show could have been. Unfortunately, Crabb’s pacing was stilted, with many ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ interrupting smooth transitions from one point to another. The usually composed presenter seemed off her game, becoming frazzled and not fully bouncing back as technical difficulties with her slideshow and pointer disrupted the flow of content. 

Some plot points that set up punchlines in her presentation – onion eating, empty fruit bowls and the many methods of dodging a democracy snag snap – were predictable. While Crabb gave us small chuckles, the chat floated at a surface level pointing to memes passed, without much nuance or insider reveals. 

Crabb missed the mark with this performance, and it seemed she knew it as her confidence wavered throughout. She kept actively checking her phone, telling us she was determined to keep to time  – a forgivable act if it weren’t for giving off the vibe that she wanted to escape the stage as soon as possible.  

Overall, this was more of a light char than a grilling, with some entertaining moments but not worth the $75 ticket. The Grilling Season does what it promises in the Fringe guide, but lacks complexity as Crabb swims in the shallows of bountiful material she’s surely picked up over the years. 

The Grilling Season is in the Flamingo at Gluttony until March 17. 

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