She ran away from home, married a much older man, then spent two months in jail. Now she's a comedy star.

Angella Dravid has heard the question before. She knows it's coming. But it has to be asked again. "Is it true?"

Her eyes widen. She eyeballs me, pauses, and replies: "Yes. It's all true."

It's the first question Dravid gets asked by anyone lucky enough to see her recent Comedy Festival hit Down the Rabbit Hole, a show so good she sold out every single night, won rave reviews and took home an award.

Angella Dravid turned a failed relationship into a hit comedy show.
Angella Dravid turned a failed relationship into a hit comedy show.

Based around a troubled relationship, the story starts with Dravid running away from home as a teen to live with a much older man she'd met online, and ends with her spending two months in jail for assault before being deported from the UK.

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With her deadpan style that includes plenty of awkwardness and uncomfortable pauses, the 30-year-old turned her "trauma" into a one-hour stand-up comedy show that's so unbelievable, many people think she made it all up.

Now, sitting at an Eden Terrace cafe, Dravid is ready to reveal the very real pain behind her show. But before we get into it, it's worth saying again. Yes. It's all true.

True, and, warns Dravid when I first meet her, "disturbing". As she recounts it, I find myself shaking my head in disbelief. Hold onto your seats. It goes a little something like this.

Dravid was living in Naracoorte when she found love online. Born in Oman to an Indian father and a Samoan mother, she'd moved to the small South Australian town - population: 4888 - with her dad when they split, and she was bored. So she turned to the internet.

"I've been on the internet, in chat rooms, since I was 14. I was very comfortable with it," she says. "And I met someone."

She knew the man she was messaging was older. But he was miles away in the UK. Their chats got more frequent. "He was like, 'We should meet'." He suggested Canada. She was reluctant. "I was still in high school," she says.

But he was persistent, and he offered to pay for her flight, so she left. And she didn't come back. A year later, they were married. She was 18. He was 47. It was 2005. Their marriage certificate describes him as a "chief executive (orchestra)"; she's a "spinster" and a "student".

Angella Dravid's marriage certificate from 2005.
Angella Dravid's marriage certificate from 2005.

What could go wrong? Everything. Dravid found herself even more isolated in Brighton than she was in Naracoorte. Unable to work, scared to meet new people, and struggling to connect with her husband's older friends, she stayed at home, bingeing on cooking shows, getting bored.

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Feeling trapped, she started trouble, finding reasons to break up, then make up with her husband. She felt it was the only thing she could control. One night, she found a photo of his ex-wife, and attacked him with it. The police were called, and she was arrested.

Looking back, she says it had to happen.

"That was a relief for me. It took me going to jail to realise I was in a bad relationship," she says. She wasn't upset about it. She was, for the first time in a long time, excited. "I went into jail in a paddy wagon excited to see what would happen next. Like, 'This could be great'. It became a movie for me."

She spent two months in prison, becoming friends with many of the inmates. Her parents had no idea. After her conviction, she left prison and her husband, was deported, and came back to New Zealand to live with her mum, working office jobs. Whenever she told people her story, they didn't believe her. "People think I'm playing a character," she says.

She first imagined telling it as a short story, or a book, or maybe a movie. "I just didn't have the right experience to tell this story." Despite suffering crippling social anxiety, she settled on a comedy show. "Stand up seemed to be the most immediate way to test out if it was enjoyable and likeable."

Last week, as part of the International Comedy Festival, she told this story six different times to six different audiences, watching faces closely as she ran through all of the details, beat by beat.

Angella Dravid's show Down the Rabbit Hole is based on real life events.
Angella Dravid's show Down the Rabbit Hole is based on real life events.

The show was so popular, she sold out every night and was forced to perform twice on the Saturday due to demand. Some nights were a struggle. Parts of her story are still so traumatic for her that thinking about them sends her into a panic. That's what her awkward pauses are about.

But it was worth it. She was announced as the Billy T award-winner the day after her last show, on Sunday, May 21. It was 12 years to the day that she got married. Dravid can find humour in how her story's gone full circle. "I came out of a poisonous relationship, so anything else that came out of it was comfort. I refuse to see the bad parts of it," she says.

Angella Dravid with her fellow comedy festival winners: Melanie Bracewell, Rose Matefeo and Ruby Esther.
Angella Dravid with her fellow comedy festival winners: Melanie Bracewell, Rose Matefeo and Ruby Esther.

But, after that final show, Dravid burst into tears. The tears didn't stop until 3am, when, being comforted by her new comedian friends at The Classic, comic Rhys Mathewson told her a joke that made her realise she was crying tears of joy.

"We all find our family eventually," he told her. "You had to get deported to find yours."