Town Folk

As career challenges go Damian Callinan & Micky D’s Road Trip was hard to top. Trying to make up a multi-media live show from scratch with a team of 5 [two comedians, one producer, one stage manager and a flim-maker] in 2 days in 26 towns wasn’t enough for Damian Callinan so unleashed hisnext untested social experiment: ‘Town Folk’.

Having noted that one of the strengths of Road Trip was the way the show highlighted personalities within the town, who may or may not have received the plaudits they deserved, sparkled the idea of created show where the focusing was on harnessing the skills, charm and stories of  the Town Folk.

Renewing their ‘Road Trip’ their collaboration, award winning film-maker John Cherry & Road Trip tour & stage manager Zillah Morrow, accompanied Callinan as he tracked down the individuals, duos and groups nominated by the community.

Rekindling his association with filmmaker John Cherry, the team was streamlined to 3 with the inclusion of gun producer/stage manager Zillah Morrow. The aim for this iteration of the community engagement was to spend more time in the town getting to know the town and the people, though that didn’t always prove to be the case in practice.

The result was a more intimate, detailed, resonant, and despite not focusing on the comedy as specifically, hilarious depiction of their town.

The shows segments varied from night depending what was thrown up by own surveys, interactions and personalities. Photoshop also allowed speculations beyond the actual and added greatly to the strong opening.

From here the show diverged from night to night with different things attempted from show to show.

Here is a sample of some of the segments:

Opening Monologue/Slide Show – Callinan used his renowned gift for performing tailored, local material by taking the audience through a visual ‘Show & Tell’ of his time in their town. One of the consistent highlights of ‘Road Trip’ it never failed to connect him with the audience and establishing the interactive rapport that show is built upon. Photoshop was also used to great comic effect to project new possibilities about town life.

Trading Places – Two starkly different local identities are chosen to walk in each other’s shoes. How will Kevin the shearer go taking over from Pam at the Tourist Information Centre who meanwhile is having her first go at crotching! On show night we get them both on stage together as they let each other know how easy they’ve got it. The memorable Piggery/Bakery exchange in Murchison [Vic], lead to the stars of the job swap, Janene & John, being feted and having red carpet rolled out for them at the Murchison Hall.

World Beater – tucked away in surprising corners of the country are people who have achieved great things on the world stage. It may not be in a high profile field or time may have faded their achievement from the community’s view but the ‘Town Folk’ team gave them their dues.

Beaut Spot – We meet a loved local in the favourite place in or near town and have a heart to heart about why they love where they live

The Young Folk – Callinan visits a local primary school to get their view on what makes their town so good and who they think should be ‘Citizen of The Year.’ Bairnsdale West Primary School alone through up more than one potential nominee for Young Australian.

Townfolk Mastermind – Two local identities are asked to go head to head in a high pressure local knowledge quiz to find who is the ‘… ‘Town Folk Mastermind.’

You & Me – They might have been married for 65 years; friends since they were in a pram or judging cattle together for so long that they’ve taken to wearing ribbons. The longevity of their union was tested to the limits by an onstage quiz where they had to predict their offsiders answers.

The Club – a local club was selected and profiled and allowed Callinan ‘restricted’ membership. To be honest this largely led to Damian taking the local footy for club training with hilarious results.

2017 – Rav Tour NSW & Victoria

Q Theatre, Queanbeyan 19 August – Reviewed by Len Power, Canberra Critics Circle

‘Town Folk’ is a wickedly funny and clever concept.  Based on surveys sent out to the community prior to the performance, the ‘Town Folk’ team identify subjects for the show and, in the week prior to the performance, capture local identities and well-known locations on camera as well.  The result gives us the opportunity to look at our everyday lives in a way we can’t see ourselves.  It’s gently satirical and very amusing.

Devised and performed by comedian Damian Callinan, the show made Queanbeyan much more interesting than we Canberrans would ever have thought possible.  Even for native Queanbeyanners!

Starting with a slide show, local monuments and locations became somewhat less boring with a bit of wacky photoshopping.  Nichole Overall’s ‘Mysterious Queanbeyan By Moonlight’ tour was delightfully ruined by Damian in a clever film by his skilful cinematographer and editor, John Cherry.  Then, in another very funny film sequence, Damian proved that the locals will go out of their way to help strangers, even at appalling cost to themselves.

The audience was also given the opportunity to compare and vote on the best and worst of both Queanbeyan and Palerang Council’s landmarks in Braidwood and Bungendore and, trying to be helpful, Damian gave the audience a chance to come up with a better Queanbeyan town slogan, none of which should ever be heard of in the future.

On film again, Damian offered his rather unhelpful coaching expertise to the Queanbeyan Tigers football group and he demonstrated that the Queanbeyan Macedonian Dance Group could get along very well without him.  The show finished with ‘Quizbeyan’ in which two locals competed on stage to answer loaded questions about local history and geography.

Damian Callinan is a very funny and clever performer with a pleasing down to earth personality.  He might be working to a formula for this show but the material he presents is new and untested in each location where he performs.  He also has to get his audience warmed up and happy to interact with him very quickly.  It might look easy, but it takes a lot of skill to be able to do this successfully. His show was hugely enjoyable.