7 Feb 2018

Angella Dravid - no holds barred

From Nine To Noon, 11:28 am on 7 February 2018

Comedian Angella Dravid turned a spell in a UK prison into an award-winning comedy show - but audiences thought she was making it all up.

Angella Dravid

Angella Dravid Photo: Supplied

Dravid went into comedy almost by accident.

She quit her job as a secretary, after her boss told her she "made people feel uncomfortable".

Around the same time she started doing stand up - the first at an open mic night in her apartment building - and kept going, to try to overcome her fear of public speaking.

She used a lot of the story of her life in open mic sessions. Dravid had married a man 30 years her senior, ending up in jail in the UK, at the age of 19, to later be deported back to New Zealand.

"A lot of people thought that I was making this stuff up so it gave them room to laugh."

"They say tragedy plus timing equals comedy - and I think that's what this is.

Eventually it became her show Down the Rabbit Hole, which won her the coveted Billy T Award for emerging comedy performers.

Dravid's stage shows are marked by long, often awkward, pauses.

"On stage I'm trying to gauge what people are thinking but I realise from the audience perspective it looks like I'm bewildered as I'm speaking."

Her mother's family is Samoan, and very Christian, and her father's is Indian, Hindu and vegetarian. "There was a clash, even just at the dinner table - eating meat or not eating meat, or what's appropriate."

She didn't connect with either culture. "I almost think there's a culture within being mixed race that I connect with much more than being Indian or Samoan."

"[Being in comedy] is the first time I've encountered other people who are outsiders and become part of a clique and a group and people who understand me."

The series of events that ended with her deportation from Britain began when she was living in rural Australia with her father.

Dravid played violin in high school and met her ex-husband on a classical musical chatroom. Their communication got more and more frequent, he bought her a ticket to the UK and she flew over to meet him.

As their relationship began to break down, events escalated to the point where she lashed out with a picture frame, and her husband called the police. She had no family or friends in the country and when the court ordered her out of the marital home, the only place that would accept her was prison.

In prison, at age 19, she felt happy and good about things.

"I was around people … of different ages, different backgrounds different colours rather than in a marriage where I was normally around people who were 20 or 30 years older than me.

"I didn't really see the tough side. A lot of women wanted to take care of me - I think for them I represented the younger sister, or maybe their daughter."

She didn't want to leave.

"I found it quite a grand, elaborate entrance, going into the paddy wagon and coming out with chains and handcuffs and then when you leave it's just the knapsack and you're out the front gate with a hand drawn map to take you to the train station.

"It's a little anti-climactic."

Back in New Zealand, one of her jobs was as a receptionist in a brothel.

Early in her stand up career, when still doing open mics at the Auckland venue, the Classic, she became "addicted to seeing the audience reaction".

"You want to see them laughing, and you'd do anything to get that reaction again."

"I don't really have an idea of where I want [my career] to go because it wasn't one of the the paths I was choosing. If I got better at my job I'd be a really good PA by now.

"I'm not sure where I see myself, but because of the person who made all those decisions maybe five, six years ago, I imagine I'll still be making weird decisions and making shows to try to understand why I did that."

Angella Dravid is appearing at 'Another Frickin' Festival' which starts in Auckland on 8 February, followed by Queenstown on 9-10 February and Wellington on 11 February.