Last Drinks

Directed by Matt Parkinson

During a pub lunch with cast and crew during Damian’s days working on Channel 10’s Skithouse, he looked up on the wall of Collingwood’s Yarra Hotel and spied an oil painting: a crude rendering of the pubs genuine locals. He was about to comment on the quality of the artwork, when he browsed the clientele in the bar. At that moment, three of those pictured were in the bar, one was even wearing the same clothes. At he left the pub Callinan knew he would do a show based in the picture and that the guy in the Collingwood cap and Manchester United shirt with a ciggy hanging off his bottom lip would be at its heart.

What happens when the underworld start drinking at your local? You join the drinkers relocation program!

The Criterion is a pub in the inner suburbs of everywhere. No pokies! No wine list! No front teeth and now … no customers! It had survived the wowsers, the yuppies, the health inspectors and the changing face of pub culture but one night the underworld wandered in and pulled up a stool and it was time to call … “Last Drinks.”

Callinan invites us into his fictional ‘local’ and introduces us to the permanent fixtures whose feet stick to the carpet most days of their lives. Okey Doke the ex-jockey who won’t shut up; Jethro the business savvy junkie; Leslie the preoccupied baby sitting grandmother and Rattles the coin toting war veteran.

Life begins to change after Liam, the lovable Irish barman, a relic of the pub’s brief stint as a Celtic Theme Pub, is given the job as manager. His questionable initiatives to get more punters through the door include ‘Open Ended Trivia Nights’ which go long into the night without resolution.

But his trump card backfires. Seizing the initiative he shows the pirated first episode of “Underbelly” … the explosive series into Melbourne’s Underworld banned from Victorian TV’s. Knowing other pubs were doing likewise, he takes it a step further … “Free Pot & Parma … for Underworld figures.”

What follows is a working class tragi-comic tale set in the backdrop of a dying pub culture as thugs with delusions of grandeur trample over the regimens of the happily dispossessed.

The show was written with the assistance of the “Hothouse Theatre – Month In The Country Grant” and was first performed at the “Melbourne International Comedy” Festival in 2008.

2008 – Melbourne Comedy Festival
2009 – Adelaide Fringe Festival
2009 – Regional Tour of Victoria [Funded by RAV & Just Shows To Go]

Review 1 – Caitlin Crowley – Groggy Squirrel March 2008

Damian Callinan opens his show Last Drinks in character as Jethro, a prospectus-toting scavenger who is prepared to negotiate the exact amount of his beggar’s fee. I have seen quite a few Damian Callinan shows and therefore quite a few Damian Callinan created characters – but Jethro is hands-down my favourite.

Last Drinks is set in The Criterion Hotel, a down-at-the-heel watering hole that is yet to embrace the modern age of designer beers and poker machines. Jethro is just one of the regulars but with his broad range of facial manipulations, body language and accents Callinan manages to introduce us to many of the punters. War veteran Rattles, ex-jockey Okey Doke, Scottish grandmother-of-the-year Leslie and Liam the Barman are all brought to life by the extremely talented Callinan.

Last Drinks is a very funny but more than that, it is a show with a clear narrative, excellent character comedy and loads of heart. Callinan held the audience in the palm of his hand for the whole evening. At one stage I glanced around and all faces were turned to the stage, mouths half open in awe but smiling with delight. Callinan shows real respect for his audience, never going for a cheap laugh or the easy option. And I guarantee you won’t see a better dance routine in a festival show this year.

Will the Criterion Hotel survive an invasion of underworld characters? Will Jethro entice a few dollars from the audience? Will you forgive yourself if you miss this show? Don’t wait too long to decide – opening night was a full-house!

Review 2 -Helen Razer – The Age – March 2008

Damian Callinan is an exceptional talent with a great and complex style. He’s a complex lad with a rococo mind. My only wish is that he’d refrain from showing us all its elaborate cornices in a single event.

Powerfully intelligent comic performers such as Callinan are rare. And few among this exceptional group have the inclination to confer their gifts gently on an audience. With his compendium of characters, Callinan metes out his cleverness like a sort of light punishment.

This is not, of course, to say that Callinan’s performance is without pleasure. As he journeys through the bar stools of a local threadbare pub, moments of real delight arise. He is, however, almost always fettered by the urge to amaze. The effect is comparable to that produced by Beijing acrobats: after the third impossible contortion, you’re dazzled into something approaching boredom.

This hour, nonetheless, retains an atypical quality. He’s one of the country’s best performers writing in a genuinely Australian tradition

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review 3 – The Independent Weekly – JIM MACK

Damian Callinan, of “Skithouse”, “Family Feud” and “The Wedge” fame, is a comedian of exceptional talent, imagination and stamina. His one man-show “Last Drinks” takes the audience through the seedy but familiar world of the local pub: The Criterion. Callinan creates a strong visual sense of the bar and a connection with its patrons with minimal props and maximum imagination. The regular barflies are introduced through brilliant characterisations, at times at a frenetic pace. Just when the audience becomes comfortable with the characters the pub is invaded by the underworld and the show takes off.

Callinan’s show is entertaining and engaging. Fifty minutes disappeared in a flash in a sea of characters that become entangled in a farcical underworld drama. In terms of humour, the subject matter at times bordered on Sir Les Paterson cringe, particularly for an Adelaide audience at the Rhino Room at the Fringe. A glance around the room revealed as many white wines as beers – a point, however, not lost on Callinan who introduced us to the Chardonnay Shandy (one part Chardy and two parts beer). The biggest laughs came from moments of ad lib, berating of a poor lawyer and his “carney” partner in the front row, and when having difficulty playing himself.

Last Drinks is as much theatre as comedy. It is definitely worth a look or even two. There was a lot to take in and Callinan does not pause to soak up the laughs. There are not too many big obvious gags but a myriad of clever amusing lateral references which all seem to tie in at the end. Go easy on the beers beforehand or you might not quite get it.