***** STARS

By Nick Pilgrim

This review may contain spoilers 

One of the highlights from this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the spectacular return of Lano & Woodley.  Sharing a long-standing professional history, over time the team of Colin Lane and Frank Woodley have honed and nurtured a reputation for robust physical comedy, silly songs and tongue-twisting word play.

Previous sell-out shows have included:

  • ‘Bruiser’
  • ‘Comeback’
  • ‘Fly’
  • ‘Goodbye’
  • ‘The Island’

The duo also ventured into television with two seasons of ‘The Adventures of Lano and Woodley’, a music CD called ‘Lano and Woodley Sing Songs’, and a book called ‘Housemeeting’.

Styled much like Abbott & Costello (the legendary American comics, not the Australian politicians) with elements of Monty Python and Circus Oz thrown in for good measure, their latest sixty-minute set revisits some of the pair’s best routines woven together with brand-new material. The good news is that everything seems as fresh now, as the day these bits and skits were first performed.

The brilliance of their latest offering is that every detail seems thrown together by happenstance.  As the pair apparently bumble and stumble through the performance, the running joke handed to audiences is that the show could fall apart at any moment. In fact, this is a highly-choreographed experience worked out to the last degree.

Lano is Ying to Woodley’s Yang.  Meaning, they act like an old married couple who love each other, then hate each other and can’t escape, and make up only to love each other again.

That the level of high energy frustration and insanity they exude is maintained full-throttle over the entire hour, would leave less-experienced performers completely spent. The Wednesday evening audience I was with, dined on every movement and word.

Some of the highlights from shows past, blended in no particular order include:

  • Bouncy Rabbit
  • The Deaf Interpreter
  • Fifteen Billion Years Ago
  • Packing Tape
  • Table Tennis

Two segments brand new to me, were when Woodley reimagined Leonard Cohen’s classic, ‘Hallelujah’, as a manic children’s song, and Lano giving ‘Ten Green Bottles’ philosophical depth that had to be seen to be believed.

This being the comedy festival, shows wouldn’t be complete without some form of audience participation. In this instance, Lano and Woodley didn’t disappoint.  Latecomers were hilariously shamed for not being on time, and one young volunteer completely threw the pair when she revealed her very adult occupation.  That didn’t last long. Such is their quick-thinking brilliance, Woodley used her profession in a great comeback joke, which the pair proceeded to unpack and repack several times.

This show is one for fans and friends alike. Newcomers to their brand of humour may take a little time to get what they are doing. But everyone will be better for the journey.

This sold-out season wraps up on Sunday 4 April.