The audience is primed with a nautical jig before foreboding music and projected images of a white whale take over. The Moby Dick saga is summarised in the duo’s opening song, setting everyone up for a handy retelling that is quickly fractured.

Why so? Lano is constantly frustrated as he unsuccessfully tries to convince Woodley that the show is purely storytelling rather than a play. Naturally, Woodley disagrees. He also expects to employ the costumes and props with which he has come equipped. To complicate matters, Woodley doesn’t accept that he’s not even in the show.

The performance hinges on this exclusion and the props, including how not to use them. There are delightful slapstick moments. The briefly spouting mini-whale, for instance, is childish and charming.

Interaction between the two, either as comedians with their respective dilemmas about the show or when performing in their novel characters, often with a clowning element, leave the audience in happy suspense about what might come next.

Years of acting together have developed the duo’s sharp and quick wit. The script is interwoven with gorgeous ad libs at which both are fascinatingly adept. A memorable aside to the audience, for example: “You know this is not a part of the show because if it was we’d cut it.” Ad lib or clever writing?

When eventually ejected, the unthwarted Woodley finds a way to reappear, but in a different capacity. The subsequent dialogue (no spoilers) is “visual”, despite largely being performed in darkness. It’s imaginative and very amusing.

On this night, Lano and Woodley both cleverly played off the audience responses, and especially the presence of a five-year-old near the front who was watching a performance pitched at a 15+ crowd. Responsible parenting, they ask? They moderated their swearing and wittily addressed the matter of language they might have used, before using it anyway.

The script is layered; a wickedly funny comedy within a comedy and quite cerebral in places. At one point, Lano pauses to ask himself and the audience, “What even is this show?”. In a sense, the answer is easy: it’s an hour of unadulterated pleasure from a pair of seasoned old salts.

Lano & Woodley – Moby Dick continues in The Barboli in the Garden of Unearthly Delights until March 19.

Read more 2023 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews on InReview here.


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