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(contributed by Lisa Manekofsky)
This review of Bill's Melbourne show appears online at http://www.theatrepeople.com.au/reviews/bill-oddie-oldie-goodie-tour (Note that due to sound problems at the venue they weren't able to do the sing-a-long at
Bill Oddie - An Oldie but a Goodie Tour
Submitted by Emma Kathryn on Sunday, 23rd Jun 2013
Date of Show: Saturday, 22nd June 2013 (All day)
Venue: The Astor Theatre
It was just the thing for a cool, clear winter afternoon- Bill Oddie in front of a gaping crowd. The Astor Theatre full of fans, some in Goodies t-shirts. A great sense of anticipation in the theatre until the man himself came out to rapturous applause, and at least one cry of “We love you!”
Bill Oddie is
iconic. Anyone who has lived through The Seventies knows him, but those who haven’t need some introduction- Oddie is a British entertainer famous for being one of The Goodies. The Goodies were very popular on their eponymous tv show in the 70s and into the 80s and beyond with reruns. The Goodies exist beyond their tv show and occasionally still continue as a group.
The concept of The Goodies, in the context of their show, was very broad. They played businessmen who did anything, anywhere, anytime. This gave opportunity for all sorts of bizarre situations on the show. Slapstick humour is what most associate with Oddie, due to the crazy sketches and eccentric stunts of the tv show. But he is also known as a naturalist, writer and musician.
The gravelly-voiced, casually-dressed comedian charmed the audience just by being there. There are a lot of people who would give anything to be in a room with their idol and they were not disappointed. Bill Oddie was not performing new material divorced from the very known facets of his career. He was going back on a
historical view of his career and creating a concert with a Goodies theme, much to his fans’ delight.
When he came on stage, his persona was quickly established. A droll, quaint, typically understated Englishman. A true and natural comedian. Bill Oddie is certainly not a has-been. His act came very naturally as he took the audience through territory very familiar to many of us as well as to him.
He took us right into the zone of The Goodies. We saw snippets of old episodes on the screen while he talked about Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor, the other Goodies. What really stood out was how
much he has clearly always enjoyed working with them, and the bond he still has with them. We even saw a film of the three Goodies jokingly talking about his upcoming Australian tour.
Other highlights included his discussion of the old “Giant Dougal” sketch while it played on the screen behind him, not to mention the fascinating narrative about the tandem bike, which was one of the most famous aspects of the tv show. Who was to know that all three Goodies dreaded riding on that bike, and frequently sustained gashes and bruises? But, he said, when they were belaboured by it, they were always sustained by an old comedy maxim- “If you’re gonna fall over at least make it funny.”
Bill Oddie also went into depth about the rest of his career. It is clear that his music has always been important to him. The clips of some of The Goodies songs were fabulous, although there was a notable absence of live music performance from him- except for one brief outing with a harmonica. He pointed out proudly that The Goodies had five top twenty hit records in the 70s, and admitted “Every comedy performer that I know loves to become a rock star for a while.” Oddie’s career has clearly been diverse. There was also hilarious footage of him on a variety show on tv in the 60s. Surprise surprise- with no beard!
Part of the show was his answering questions regularly posed to him by fans. He claimed they had been asked by people such as Diana de Platypus and Vicki Vegemite! At any rate, whoever had asked them, this gave him a chance to discuss subjects which interest people such as his tv stunts, his favourite episodes, and his receiving an OBE. Overall we were given a panoramic view of his career. Towards the end we did hear about his wildlife shows. They are not very famous in Australia, but it was his services to Wildlife Conversation that got him his OBE. Oddie pointed out that he has often been compared to David Attenborough. But he points out that his approach is much different to that of Attenborough, whose shows often present things viewers would not otherwise see. Oddie’s shows tend to focus on nature familiar to British viewers and cast it in a novel light. Here we had a sublime moment. We saw footage from one of his shows which featured starlings flying at dusk. I think the audience loved this section, as he discussed how this harsh-voiced bird is responsible for one of the most awesome displays in nature.
Bill Oddie is very charming, and he’s funny, and it was excellent for his fans to see him up close and personal. He stayed afterwards so fans could pose with him and buy their autographed photographs. This was all very organized. What let the show down, however, was the tech side.
There will always be problems when a venue is not ideal for a show. I am not sure why The Astor was chosen for “Bill Oddie: An Oldie but a Goodie.” A picture theatre is not the best home for a show like this, even though its screen downstairs was put to good use. The sound system was a great problem. As to why, I am reliably informed that a sound system was introduced which was unsuitable, so The Astor introduced a radio mike to save the day. It is assumed the mike was accidentally damaged, causing the scratchy noises. The performer and the crew tried to work through it, but it was cringe-worthy.
The lighting, too, was poor. There was no spotlight. It could have done if his fans had seen him more. Never once did we get a clear view of Oddie. We got a better view of him on the video screen at the back than we did by observing him right in front of us. I understand that this was requested lighting. But it would have been nice if we could have seen a bit more of Oddie’s facial expressions.
All in all, though, the audience got what they wanted - the performer as they know and love him. Bill Oddie’s on-stage persona comes across as natural and authentic. The audience got the evocation of pleasant memories, a trip back to the 70s and an up-close look at the tv moments which gave them so much pleasure.
About the Author
Emma has a B.A. in Art History and English Literature from La Trobe University. She has also studied professional writing at Peninsula Tafe, drama, singing and dance at the William Bates Academy of Performing Arts, and singing at Voicebox Singing Studios. Emma has appeared in Iolanthe, The Gondoliers, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, The Merry Widow, Utopia Limited, Half a Sixpence, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Dorothy and the King of Oz, and other shows. Highlights include the roles of Mrs Cratchitt in Scrooge CEO and Miss Money-Penny in Spy. Emma has appeared behind the camera as an extra in Blue Heelers, Last Man Standing, Canal Road, Bastard Boys, Bed of Roses, Neighbours, Carla Cametti PD, in a bit part in Wilfred, and in the film The Knowing.