Swing Man is a comedic Lindy Hop shuffle down memory lane.
The Coopers Malthouse Theatre, as part of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, features Damian Callinan in his hilarious recollection of learning how to Swing dancing.
Damian is living a pleasant middle-aged existence, which is interrupted by alien forces. Luminous green lighting and overhead narrative creates the illusion of abduction.
The aliens are bored with their dance culture. They seek a Swing Man to teach them the 1930s “Lindy Hop” ways. He needs to complete this request by the year 2016 or suffer an undignified extra terrestrial medical procedure.
To help him succeed in his mission, they leave him a dancing partner in the form of a female Droid, played by Genevieve Wallace. She is void of emotion and has a taste for Australian flora. She is also a kleptomaniac and has a fondness for hardware from Bunning’s stores.
Damian accepts the alien’s request. He has one problem, a fear of partner dancing. He mimes stepping through an imaginary opening into his past and narrates the tale of an embarrassing adolescent crush and rejection.
He transforms the stage with jokes and dance from scenes in his school days, nightclubs and weddings. He animates gutless teenage confrontations with the local mullet hair-styled gang.
In his adult years, he develops hysterical dancing techniques. He dances without regard for others. Damian comes to the conclusion he’s become an over dancer compensating for his lack of social skills.
The year 2016 arrives and he still hasn’t learnt to Swing dance. He is very concerned about another abduction and their threat of a probe.
Callinan and the Droid join the Swing Patrol School of dance. They quickly learn of the marginal personality types Swing dancing attracts. Damo with the help of his accomplished Droid master each style.
Damian and Genevieve clearly have a good grasp of all the aspects of the Lindy Hop. Genevieve as the Droid performs an amazing solo.
The Droid and a fictitious TV skit, add a different pace and entertaining elements.
The Droid requires mental stimulation to function properly. She intermittently asks for an occupation in a monotone voice.
One instance, Damian incites audience participation and invites anyone to suggest an occupation. Taxidermy is offered and the Droid improvises with the line “you have three days to live.”
The TV skit is a mock up of a dummy’s guide to learn the Lindy Hop. Damian and the Droid portray a Southern American couple teaching viewers the dance steps. In their southern drawl, they demonstrate some of the basics and their satirical domestic episodes are amusing.
Damian speaks of his experimentation with the 1930s dance craze. The Droid and himself show the versatility of Swing and dance to backing music from several genres. The dancing and music is infectious.
Callinan retains some of the traditional stand up comedian format of story telling. His impromptu changes in character and accents, heighten his pursuit of the elusive Lindy Hop.
The pace slowed somewhat in a segment of his story when he spoke in a cockney accent. I’m unsure if the change in momentum was intended? Some of the jokes were incomprehensible and lost impact.
If you’re expecting another stand up comic, behind a mike stand, Swing Man will surprise you. Damian Callinan’s show is a light-hearted dance expose of facing mid life crises and protecting his dignity.