Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Comedy: Frank Woodley and Bob Downe

Perth International Comedy Festival
Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley
Saturday May 10

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!
For a combined 50 years, Frank Woodley and Bob Downe have been part of our furniture, and it’s a familiarity that hasn’t bred contempt.
In a double-headed Saturday night at the Astor, in front of two big Comedy Festival audiences, the two veteran comedians showed why.

The passage of time has been a little more challenging for Woodley. At 46 he’s no longer quite the hyperactive puppy who threw himself over furniture and Colin Lane in The Adventures of Lano and Woodley, and at times he falls into the trap of explaining his weirdness rather than just being weird.
But that’s not to deny his charm, his whimsy or his talents, ranging from sleight of hand (sometimes borrowed from, and properly credited to, Melbourne close-up magician Byron Black) to some tidy guitar work in a medley of songlets about flies, K Mart and other irritants.
He uses them, and stories about encounters with small boys on trams, horses, and crocodiles and the tourists who gawk at them to build the persona that has served him so well; timid but feisty, gormless but wise. We feel we know him, and we like him a lot.

We like Frank, but we lurve Bob. The extravagant, audacious, Mark Trevorrow’s new Bob Downe show, Bob, Sweat & Tears, comes complete with The Full Catastrophe (his long-time MD John Thorn, guitarist Sam Leske and drummer Holly Thomas) and a shocking revelation: Bob has gone in!
If you’re not ready for a straight Bob Downe, it soon becomes apparent that he isn’t either. To start with, he clearly hasn’t cleaned out his polyester-packed closet, and his attempts at manliness (sitting with legs apart, developing a voice “halfway between John Laws and Christopher Pyne”, joining a Men’s Shed) somehow lack the ring of truth. Even hanging out with Howard Sattler and Troy Buswell – in his new car, a Hadron Collider – can’t compensate for having to feign an interest in sport.
As always, he’s well briefed on things local, right down to the mythical Perth Airport Rail Link. And, as always, his genuine talent as a singer and performer would just about be enough on its own, even without his wicked humour and cultural savvy.
His instinct only let him down once, and, ironically, it came from the show’s title. The closing medley of Blood Sweat & Tears songs – Hi-De-Ho, Lucretia MacEvil, And When I Die and Spinning Wheel – didn’t suit him vocally and clearly weren’t hard-wired into his audience’s memory. A small misstep in a fabulous show.

This review appeared in The West Australian 13.5.14

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