June 30, 1994

Adelaide – Fence

by Colin Lane, Frank Wood and Neill Gladwin

Performed by Lano and Woodley
Director: Neil Gladwin
Lighting Co-ordinator: Charlie Murray
Stage Manager: Dan Jonsson
Lion Theatre. June 14, 1994.

In the popular TV comedy show, Fast Forward, there was a recurrent skit about the WhizzBang Theatre Company. They were a TIE group bringing worthy, didactic theatre to schools. Short on talent, subtlety, and anything remotely resembling humour, the Whizzbangs represent all that captive adolescent audiences most dread.

When Neill Gladwin took over Magpie, the young people’s wing of State Theatre, he promised some new approaches in his program- and a shift away from Whizzbang theatre. He could not have done better than Lano and Woodley. Formerly of the deadpan, weirdo comedy duo Los Trios Ringbarkus, Gladwin has a good eye for new comedy. He began the collaboration with Colin Lane and Frank Wood (aka Lano and Woodley) in 1993. They had been part of the successful comic trio Found Objects and now were trying out as a double act. Guided by Gladwin, who directed and edited their material with them, they developed a show which did excellent business at the 1993 Melbourne Comedy Festival and then again in this year’s Adelaide Fringe.

Fence is a re-working of the Melbourne show- guaranteed 45% new jokes, skites the publicity- but the throughlines remain the same. The premise is that Lano and Woodley are two unworldly virgins desperately trying to be more urbane than they are. It comes as no surprise to learn that school audiences took them to heart when the show toured to various metropolitan high schools in Adelaide and then a country round to Ceduna. Fence is a tender work about friendship, rivalry, and the pressures of telling people you’ve done it all when you manifestly haven’t.

Lano and Woodley are a funny pair- part Laurel and Hardy, part Ren and Stimpy. Woodley is thin and anxious and given to hilarious swoons of self doubt, Lano is a mass of hearty over-compensation. When Woodley gets out his guitar to sing Sonia, with the crashingly immortal lines -I picked on ya because I had a crush on ya, Sonia, it is Lano who appears in the background with harmonies extruded so hysterically that they overtake the song.

Fence is full of visual gags, trick props, looney tunes jokes, audience stoogery and silly mime. Woodley does press-ups with his tongue and Lano in order to impress his imaginary lover Jenny performs a wickedly satiric `modern contemporary dance piece.’The show gets even more unhinged when Woodley steals Lano’s fantasy girl. When Lano whimpers about it Woodley replies-` next time you have an imaginary girlfriend why don’t you get one that loves you a bit better.’

It is this kind of tenuous humour that Los Trios used to thread themselves so memorably around and Lano and Woodley have just as much invention. Their improvisation is a delight, their timing and sense of the audience highly inventive. Neil Gladwin has done a fine thing putting such quality talent in front of young audiences and for reminding them that the brightest of our new comedy is indeed part of current theatre. Too often cabaret and stand-up has been enjoyed but overlooked as ephemera. Fence, with its crisp direction and endearingly original performances is as fresh as it is funny. Magpie has successfully widened its brief and in doing so set a brisk pace for itself.

Financial Review, June 30, 1994

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment