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Frank Woodley: Bemusement Park

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

It’s hard to argue with the assertion in the blurb for Bemusement Park that Frank Woodley has funny bones. But there’s not quite enough flesh on that skeleton to make this variety-packed show one of his finest. The hour is a series of charmingly shambolic set pieces that don’t quite gel, even if, individually, some scenes are stupidly funny.

At his best, Woodley combines his unique comic physicality with the delightful innocence of the most loved silent movie stars. The desperation to please, which is very much his shtick, means the visual slapstick is combined frantically with songs, stand-up, prop gags and dance.

But the manic compulsion to heap deviation upon deviation to create a frenzy of activity also robs the show of its focus. When every statement is followed by a contradiction or half-finished clarification, it’s more difficult to care about what’s being said.

The show needs firmer direction, which is evident from the start. Woodley opens with a strong piece of comic awkwardness, entering the stage in a Cathy Freeman-style lycra one-piece… which, of course, he can’t get out of. But after that bit of business he has to change, requiring a long time-padding monologue, delivered from behind a screen, during which time all the energy evaporates.

Later, he proves himself more adept at stand-up, with an excellent yarn about being caught short in the apparently isolated Outback that winningly combines scatological humour with his innate physicality to produce a masterful routine. However, other segments about watching his sister’s birth video or sneezing in restaurants, doesn’t zing half as much.

Snappy routines from his bad Michael Jackson impression, to one-liners set to silly choreography, to his Knockabout finale demonstrate that shorter is sweeter; while his ever-affable style extends to a playful, spontaneous teasing of latecomers.

He has the air of a daft uncle, determined to entertain a youngster with a short attention span, although the show’s target audience is not so well defined as that. With Woodley’s goofy features, Broad Comedy and matinee performances, this show could easily be a family outing, if it wasn’t for the swearing and frequently adult material.

Comedy is subjective, Woodley is fond of telling us, and if there’s one skit you don’t like here, it won’t be long until one comes along that will match your comic palate. But in his keenness to appease everybody, Woodley is in danger of satisfying no one.

Review date: 9 Apr 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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