Frank Woodley appears to have lost his way and lost the funny, but lucky enough that’s exactly why his new show, I Woodley, is about.
He comes out looking like an Australian version of David Tenant’s the Doctor from Doctor Who, and tells stories of the disastrous month leading up to this show, where he lost the funny and tried to find it again. Recovering from a bit of a break down, his journey of self discovery looked at his reputation as a big funny man, and exploring his reputation and mental health.
His journeys take him from interactions with his psychologist, dubbed ‘John Paul George and Ringo”, a homeless man he keeps running into, testing his jokes and his preparation gigs, his car being stolen and more. It lets us into the anxiety he faced, the internal struggle about getting a tattoo of the Deli Lama (like the Dalai Lama but it’s all about meats and cheeses), and his ten year old son calling him a dick potato (like a dictator but more of a dick and more of a potato, he explains).
The show is personal, but has an ADHD feel to it as he tries to explore what he’s been feeling. He’s been so at odds with stage Frank and real Frank that he’s been battling insomnia and anxiety, and feels like he’s lost his funny.
The show is heavier on the non-sense than ever, and even his strong following of fans seemed a little less reception to this show. While presenting an important message about mental health and performing arts, the show was less funny and more exploration and personal journey, whether he it to be or not. I think audience members will walk away feeling a bit better educated in the challenges performers face with their inner critics, their reputations, and what they are to the general public, compared to who they are to their friends and family, but unfortunately this show just wasn’t as funny as I hoped.
He has his moments, the slapstick humour and racing around the stage, but there are also moments that drag on far too long – the drunk man walk is funny, but it genuinely feels like it goes for 10 minutes and the audience get restless. The vibe from the audience is one of enjoyment, but also awkward laughter, like “Are we supposed to empathise, be shocked, or laugh here?” and it’s a tricky one- Woodley is being so vulnerable and open with the audience and showcasing his struggles in a humorous but personal way, but audience members may feel like they didn’t quite get the show they were anticipating. Still, there are jokes about poos, a song about ancient Rome, and a roman theme complete with columns, that feels like it has no relevance to the rest of the show, plus confetti and a washing line, so it’s still bound to entertain. I’m disappointed this show didn’t live up to the hype or to his reputation, but its worth a look if you’re a die hard Woodley fan, and would like to know what’s been on his mind for the last few months. It plays at the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre Melbourne until 16 April. More info: https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2017/shows/frank-woodley-i-woodley