Review: Damian Callinan: The Merger
Posted on: Sat 16 Feb 2019
By Lisa Harper Campbell
With this funny, heart-warming and impressive one-man show, Damian Callinan proves yet again that he is a master storyteller.
The Merger has delighted theatre audiences across Australia and now, in its newly-made feature-length format, is set to introduce international film audiences to the motley crew making up the Bodgy Creek Football Club.
It is with a sincere love for each of his nuanced characters that Callinan invites us into a small country town in a state of flux.
That small country town is Bodgy Creek. A rural community confronted by change and by the prospect of losing their beloved, albeit pretty bloody average, football club as a result of a proposed merger with their neighbouring rivals. However, a solution perhaps may be found via the recruitment of new players from the recent refugee arrivals.
Callinan embodies each of his key characters with ease. The philosophically-inclined coach, the stubbornly conservative club president and the refugee turned star footballer, amongst many others all must come together if the Bodgy Creek Roosters are to snag the flag and crow once more.
There is an instant rapport established between performer and audience in this production. Never one to shy away from the reality of theatrical conceits, Callinan is always ‘in the moment’, even if that moment shifts into a meta-relationship with his audience, we’re with him the whole way.
Lighting and snippets of community radio audio provide neat transitions and the clever use of minimal (but crucial) set pieces and props create some memorable theatrical moments.
As a performer, Callinan is difficult to fault. His seamless shifts in tone allow him to reach the heights of laugh-out-loud comedy and plumb the depths of well-earned pathos.
It is hard to ignore the broader relevance of this very ‘local’ story. As a global community, we are facing a refugee crisis as millions seek asylum and safety. The story of Bodgy Creek, is one that celebrates inclusion and compassion; two qualities desperately needed in this global context. These themes, woven so thoughtfully and skilfully into an entertaining show with Damian Callinan as your entertaining guide, make The Merger essential viewing.
The Merger continues its season until February 24 at Holden Street Theatres.