10 October 2007

A Record or an OBE

MELBOURNE FRINGE 2007
A Record or an OBE
Shaolin Punk

10 October 2007
Caz Reitops Dirty Secrets


There are enough Goodies fans in Melbourne to make sure that A Record or an OBE sells out this Fringe. It’s full of shameless Goodies gags and references, Brit comedy name dropping and all the little details that only Goodies nerds will understand. But does it work if you don’t know this trio?

Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie worked together as The Goodies from 1970 to 1982. The Shaolin Punk trio of Ben McKenzie (Graeme), Robert Lloyd (Tim) and Scott Gooding (director) obviously spent many, many, many half hours in the early 80s sitting on the couch at 6pm watching the ABC. So did I. I also remember playing The Goodies with my friends Sam and Michael in the 70s. I always had to be Tim, because he dressed up as a woman.

Fortunately A Record or an OBE is more than a fan tribute (and Rob is a better Tim than I ever was). The show opens and closes with a voice over giving some well chosen Goodie facts, but it also tells us that what we are seeing isn’t true. They ask what could have happened if Bill had left in 1975? Could two Goodies be better than three?

I really liked that neither performance was an impersonation of Tim or Graeme, but reflections of the possible characters that both were off screen. However far too much is based on the audiences’ established understanding of who they were. We still need to care about and understand THIS Tim and Graeme. I could see that the actors knew their characters, but this understanding and empathy wasn’t clear on the stage. There was a bit too much telling and not enough showing.

Fans, of course, are missing Bill (there’s no live via satellite link). Those who don’t know Bill have a limited concept of who is missing. He is a vital offstage character who has really only been described as a scruffy wanna be rock star. The impact of his loss isn’t clear through the characters or the direction. We needed to see the empty space/ the missing limb/the emotional impact of this loss.

Gooding’s direction sensibly times and shapes the show like a Goodies 30-minute episode (complete with voice overs and a very funny Beanz add). The performance space is tiny and has the atmosphere of an intimate BDSM soiree. I really would have liked to see this show take more advantage of the space and make it work for them. Perhaps constrict the staging more and really play with the conventions of 70s TV camera shots. Make it look and feel even more like sitting in the lounge room watching a tiny box.

There is a very witty moment when the duo devises a Bill-less Goodies episode. Graeme stresses that Tim’s idea is not a plot, it’s just a mood – they need action and a story. Is this is a post-post-structuralist-introspective-ironic commentary on the actual script? If yes – it’s a delightfully self-satirical moment. If not...please listen to your own advice. My concern with this script is lack of action and drama. It’s witty and funny, but we don’t see goals and journeys and changes. Dramatically “Part Two” is far more interesting than “Part One”. Break ups are real and will always resonate with an audience.

So, should this show speak to non-Goodies fans? I took someone who didn’t know the Goodies. She didn’t get it. Without the assumed knowledge, the combination of fact and fiction is very confusing and ultimately makes you question the credibility of the whole piece.

As a piece nostalgic-fan-fiction-theatre I enjoyed A Record or an OBE. If you were a Goodies geek – don’t miss it. If you have no idea who I’m taking about, don’t remember the 80s or used to watch the news at 6pm – perhaps wait for Shaolin Punk’s next show.

PS: Why do I have the feeling that next Fringe Neil is going to walk out of the share house?


This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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