Ding Dong Downe is one of those innocuous Christmas shows that come around this time of year, capitalizing on the holiday season, but not offering anything new.
I have always had a soft spot for Bob Downe (aka Mark Trevorrow) and his kitschy gay schtick – his daggy dancing, safari suits (in this case, a denim patchwork number) and his incredible agility with eyeball acrobatics. In the past I have found his blend of musical, spoken and physical comedy quite funny. Having not seen him for some time, I was curious what he had in store in this two-hander with TV legend Denise Drysdale.
The 100 minute show passed quickly enough, and the enthusiastic audience was into it before the duo even hit the stage, but the material was, to say the least, a bit tired and there was potential for far greater from the talented performers and their supportive band (led by musical director John Thorn).
Starting with some corny dancing, a lot of filler banter, Christmas chatter and a musical duet, the pair opened the show together. There was plenty of back-patting and talking each other up, with Downe’s rubber-man physicality in tandem with Drysdale’s upbeat, giggly persona. The show then moved into individual segments – the first from Drysdale.
Drysdale, as we learn, is 59 (and three days – it was her birthday on Wednesday) and she is still out there, ever the show woman. She has lasted decades in an industry where it is nearly impossible for a female to find longevity and I do respect her for that. Most of the audience loved her and the man who got to sit on her lap and snuggle into her (newly-reduced) breasts said it was his dream come true.
For me, though, her musical numbers were entertaining enough, but the humour was just bland. She told us too much information about the aforementioned breast reduction, did imitations of horses, chooks and even bacon being fried (this involved her lying supine and shaking furiously), donned oversized nanna underwear and huge F-size bra to sing in a range of impressions from Marilyn Monroe to John Wayne. It was hardly cutting-edge stuff.
Downe’s segment mixed jokes about politicians, Melbourne, fashion and his family with some great songs. I loved his Land Down Under (which he playfully attributed to Peter Garrett and Midnight Oil) and would have liked more music and less talk. His banter was well-timed and there was some good material, but I swear I have heard all those jokes before…and I haven’t seen the guy in at least five years! At segment’s end, Drysdale came out as an unwilling harem girl (with pasties on her breasts – thankfully, she was wearing a modest black top underneath) to join him for a rendition of Elvis Presley’s Little Egypt. Two willing audience members helped her achieve Little Egypt's required triple somersault before she hobbled back off stage.
She returned for some final dueting – the classic AC/DC ballad It’s A Long Way To the Top to finish the show and Downe introduced us to the band members. It turns out the young drummer (Downe told him “Any younger and you’d be eight cells) could really sing and I started thinking I would have enjoyed a solo show from him considerably more than the recycled material I had just sat through.
Ding Dong Downe reminded me of that single Christmas fruitcake that keeps traveling from giver to receiver in an ongoing chain of second-hand gift-giving.
Watching the show was like getting that fruitcake…again.
Luckily, most of the audience seemed to enjoy fruitcake. Unless, unlike me, they were well-skilled in faking joy over a less-than-thrilling Christmas gift.
Bob Downe & Denise Drysdale in
Ding Dong Downe
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre
Dates/Times: Fri 7th & Sat 8th December
Bookings: Athenaeum Booking Office (03) 9650 1500