Anyone familiar with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival knows Diana Nguyen. Her signature blend of honest storytelling and gaudy wit (as well as her charming snort-laugh) has made her a festival staple since her first show back in 2016.
In Going All In, she emerges from a seven-year journey of self-discovery and soul searching. In the years since that first performance, she’s surfed the world’s most dangerous waves, fallen in love and even dabbled in holotropic breath therapy. Now, she’s ready to go ‘all in’ and dive even deeper into her past. And she’s taking us along for the ride.
Early on, Nguyen describes the show as a chaotic collection of moments of ‘fight or flight’ throughout her life, from a failed Australian Idol audition in 2003 to a near-death experience in Bali. With charm and charisma, she unpacks personal baggage and embarrassing memories with break-neck speed, like pitching her new app, ‘Dick Advisor’ and unpacking her fear of the ocean in the same breath, recounting her featured role on Bondi Rescue and exploring her experience as a second generation Vietnamese Australian in the next.
It’s fifty minutes packed with bawdy anecdotes, physical skits and original music that swings boldly between the outrageous and the sentimental. While it’s an incredibly personal show, Nguyen never takes herself too seriously. In her hands, ‘intergenerational trauma’ – a phrase she defines simply as meaning ‘we’re all fucked’ – can be found in the unlikeliest of places, from her love of hoarding vibrators to her refusal to learn to swim.
She speaks fondly of her childhood in Springvale as the daughter of a single mum and evokes an eclectic array of memories with tongue-in-cheek impressions and exaggerated physicality. Her relationship with her mother – a Vietnamese refugee who arrived in Melbourne in the 1970s – is the beating heart of the show and the closest it gets to a narrative thread.
Some might struggle to follow the connections between each segment or tire of some jokes that recycle familiar comedic terrain, but Nguyen’s confidence ensures you’re in safe hands throughout. And her interactions with audience members make for many of the show’s best moments.
We are the waves she surfs on in Bali and the chorus echoing her loving anthem to boba milk tea, one of her 78,000 LinkedIn followers and the judges of her Australian Idol audition. At every opportunity, Nguyen pulls us into the show. If she’s ‘all in’, we’re right there with her.