Bedroom Philosopher: Songs From The 86 Tram
Show type: Melbourne 2009
Twelve characters. Twelve different songs. One amazing tram. The Bedroom Philosopher is your driver on this special route, conducting the hilarious, outrageous and beautiful voices from Melbourne's most thrilling roller-coaster. It's tramtastic.
We’ve previously called the quirkily tweedy Bedroom Philosopher ‘the Jarvis Cocker of stand-up’; and you can almost certainly add elements of The Kinks’ Ray Davies and, almost inevitably, Flight Of the Conchords to the mix.
He’s always been a musical comedian of some talent, although an overriding penchant for whimsy and weirdness has sometimes kept him from being widely accessible. With his latest show, he’s moved closer to the mainstream – or possibly the mainstream’s inched closer to him – with a witty and engaging hymn to the people he’s encountered on Melbourne’s trams.
Songs From The 86 Tram is a concept album of a show; 12 songs set entirely on one route, each from the perspective of a different passenger or member of staff. Through businessmen, junkies, arrogant ‘cross-platform multifaceted new media workers’ and chatty grandmothers, this is a delightful mix of comedy, character and music.
He breaks up the tracks with monologue, again sticking to well-developed character. An old-timer reminisces, a child reads his delightful story and the menacing ticket inspector is given a Dirty Harry swagger as he enforces the law. Most are given warmly witty scripts (though most of the puns could, and probably should, be exorcised) to reveal the clearly identifiable characters, without quite succumbing to stereotype.
A versatile musician, the Philosopher matches the style to the person. Of the many musical highlights, the standouts are probably the Australian hip-hop track, and the semi-literate bogan love song which starts as eloquently as it continues with the line: ‘Words can get fucked’. It’s an instant classic.
Some in the audience who know the suburbs the tram route serves can’t hide their recognition of the personalities who get on and off. ‘It’s so true,’ comes the audible cry from the back several times – but you’d know the characters even if you didn’t know the neighbourhoods.
Likewise, complaining about the familiar trials of travelling by public transport is so common, it’s virtually a stand-up cliché. But the Philosopher’s keen observational eye sees things others don’t… at least not until he points it out. In fact, the only thing that would make this more authentic would be if it were to be performed on an actual tram, which is surely a trick missed.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Melbourne, April 2009