Long-time comedy collaborators Colin (Lano) Lane and Frank Woodley dissolved the act in 2006 to pursue separate interests. Since reforming in 2016, they have had “best of” shows (e.g. 2021’s Lano and Woodley in Lano & Woodley) and awards. Yet, offerings have also broadened in scope.
They have considered historical events, sort of, such as in Fly – their tale of first aviators Orville and Wilbur Wright. Now they’re mining the literary, ambitiously, in Moby Dick, their 60-ish-minute account of Herman Melville’s legendary 1851 novel.
In interviews, the duo acknowledged that their success grew from the nature of their pairing. Woodley (often Lano’s “stupid, skinny man”) brings free-wheeling physical comedy and guitar playing.
This contrasts with Lane’s stern commitment to telling a story, despite his partner’s increasingly irritating shenanigans. Taking on Moby Dick, the tale of seafaring Captain Ahab’s obsession with the titular giant white whale, was always going to be a challenge.
However, this time, Lane has a plan: keep it simple. Employing only a sparse stage with a sail backdrop, and no props or characters, Lano thinks his words will be enough as he “is a storyteller”. Of course, Woodley has a more flamboyant take on how the tale should be told…
Lano and Woodley continue their tradition of delivering a fast-paced show that crams in a lot of gags. Appealingly kooky and unpredictable diversions from the main story delivered good payoffs.
Fans (if not Lano) will be pleased to see Woodley still trying his luck with improvising. However, the pair also challenge themselves with some new elements, befitting of the tale.
Their pursuit of a theatrical comedy style pays off handsomely thanks to outstanding production values. The historical setting is aided by appropriate costume design, incorporating duck caps and rough-looking fabrics, and details like Woodley’s lower-decks-style stubble.
The mood was enhanced by a soundscape and lighting that bring a sense of foreboding, nautical and otherwise. Projected animations of a stylised restless ocean heighten the sense of potential violence, and imbue the tale with a mythic quality.
And, there’s a nice answer to the question of “Why Moby Dick?” as the novel’s events start to resonate with the on-stage action.
This review night crowd ranged from ten-year-olds to silvertails. Whilst there might be a few F-bombs, like the best of the Pixar films, Lano and Woodley have appeal across age groups. Avast, comedy travellers: judging from the volume of house laughter, you’d rather walk the plank than miss this offering at MICF 2022.
Lano & Woodley: Moby Dick
Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Sunday 10 April 2022 – 5.00pm
Season continues to 24 April 2022
Information and Bookings: www.comedyfestival.com.au
Image: Colin Lane and Frank Woodley in Moby Dick – photo by Ian Laidlaw
Review: Jason Whyte