By his own admission, Frank Woodley’s emotional age is 11 – which immediately puts him in good stead to write and perform a show for children.
Originally known and adored by Australian adult audiences, as one half of revered and internationally acclaimed comedy duo, Lano & Woodley, Noodlenut is his first show written specifically for children.
His comedy philosophy is guided by his beliefs “that there’s something funny in everything really…maintaining a sense of wonder is incredibly important…and you can accept and learn to turn failure into strength.” How very apt given his chosen audience.
Aspects of his work are semi-autobiographical and his acknowledged inability to multi-skill well in real life, has invariably, lead to a trail of (unintentional) destruction and much comedy fodder. Tapping into his inner child, has allowed this inquisitive, possibly, even mischievous, accident-prone, sometimes self-sabotaging yet endearingly vulnerable “man child”, to always look so genuinely happy to be on stage performing, that it’s positively contagious and ensures he connects with his young audience.
Much has been said before of his physical attributes for visual comedy – the tousled hair, his eyes, the skinny elasticised body which in them selves practically guarantee mayhem & laughter.
The keyword when describing Noodlenut, is ‘variety’ – there’s elements of clowning, mime, song & silly dancing, acrobatics (some unintentional), juggling, ‘chaotic’ magic (the publicist’s words, not mine), slapstick, stand-up routines & just a little bit of audience participation.
Topics covered in the stand-up range from schoolyard bullies (the phrase he used to describe one called Lisa really nailed it – “an ugly bit of work”), to the seemingly ever-changing and frustrating rules of Tiggy & Tagback, to the one-upmanship of Show-and-Tell. All this demonstrates his respect, understanding and appreciation for his young 8+ audience.
Recently, Woodley has ventured into children’s publishing, having written and illustrated a series appealing to both boys and girls who like physical humour, tricks and detective stories. It centres around a feisty heroine called Kizmet and her currawong sidekick, Gretchen. He’d been delivering presentations about the book for the last 12 months and thought the premise would transition well to the stage. The end result was Noodlenut.
Woodley employs various techniques to drive the narrative: he combines his stand-up routine whilst reading a storybook, supposedly written by his much loved, dearly departed grandfather, Ichabod Twilby. He adopts an array of pompous, manic, sinister even gangster type accents & dons simple guises for the characterisations.
He also intersperses the live action with projected images on a screen – illustrations he’s drawn for the book, iPhone footage of his cat, Mike, whacking popcorn into the mouth of his dog, Sam Walter, and then playing it backwards several times so it appears that the dog is coughing it up; much to the children’s delight. And another clip from his 2012, TV series Woodley, where he accidentally gaffa tapes his TV wife’s head to a ceiling fan during labour. You can imagine the guffaws this got.
Woodley views himself as a romantic person in the sense that he often deals with the ideas of love and friendship and that “making people laugh has always been very rewarding for me,” and that’s exactly what he did. He’s sweet but not saccharin. Perfect for that type of show and for introducing first-timers to the joy of live theatre. What wonderful nonsense.
Arts Centre Melbourne presents a Token Event
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 19 – 24 January, 2016
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au | 1300 182 183