Damian Callinan: The Merger – Sportsman’s Night 2
Television executives be told: With Bodgy Creek Football Club, Damian Callinan has created a ready-to-go one-man sitcom, offering credible characters and a funny, sometimes touching, script. It could be the next Summer Heights High.
This is his second festival show based around the small-town AFL club, struggling to find success despite the best efforts of their New Age coach, who uses the great philosophical masters to motivate and encourages the players to swear at the ref only in Shakespearean pentameter.
Their troubles – so dire they have even taken to allowing girls to play – are documented by a ten-year-old aspiring film-maker, who just happens to be the grandson of club president Bull Barlow, a man laid up with prostrate problems.
The club’s solution to their predicament is to recruit Sayeed Ali, an Afghanistan asylum-seeker being held in the Christmas Island detention camp – a plot device which allows Callinan to explore the hot topic of immigration with wit and sensitivity, without getting on his soapbox.
To dismiss this as a show about footy would be to miss the point entirely. You need know nothing about the sport of aerial ping pong to enjoy this series of affectionate character pieces as, like all the best narrative comedies, you believe the world even if it’s outside your experience.
Callinan is a masterly performer, fluid enough to include some mild and good-natured audience banter into his material, and cope with the symphony of street noise that leaks into his tiny venue. Unusual for a comic actor, such flashes of spontaneity come only from the confidence of knowing your creation inside-out, and years of experience of live audiences.
There are nice touches throughout: from sock puppets to the wryly-observed local radio station extracts that cover Callinan’s costume changes. But he achieves his nuanced characterisation though his vocal and physical talents – not any visual makeovers.
At times it’s more an impressive piece of craftsmanship than laugh-out-loud hilarious – but ‘impressive’ isn’t exactly a bad place to be. The Bodgy Creek Roosters will certainly reward your support.