Image by Fringe Festival Perth
Review by Angela Aris
Debuting new material as an emerging artist is always scary. However, performance anxiety is healthy; it gets the adrenaline pumping and pushes artists to take risks. For Fabian Woods’ first headline act, he not only had to navigate the novelty of carrying his show but also representing the Indigenous community.
I was nervous for him, I wanted him to do well and I wanted to enjoy myself. So, I sat, witnessed, waiting to see if the punchline of the first joke would stick. It did. The crowd was engaged from the beginning, obviously responding to Woods’ natural charisma and inherent calmness.
To break the ice, Woods joked light-heartedly about Mark McGowan’s downfall. All references were topical and clever. This strategic opening reassured me that although new to the stage, this was not an amateur performer. I relaxed into my seat. These sharp jabs aimed at politicians became a consistent theme; names like Penny Wong and Jackie Lambie sprinkled tactfully throughout the show. I was impressed by Woods’ literacy in the political sphere. Woods drew attention to the ridiculousness of Australian politics, taking seriousness away from the current Covid Pandemic while also constructing a backdrop to critique racist systems.
Fittingly, the joke that made my laughter transition from polite to hysterical was also the one that seemed to divide the audience. These are the moments in comedy that are the most valuable. They provide an insight into what topics and remarks are uncomfortable for us as a society, offering an opportunity to reflect on why. I will not repeat the joke, as I would be unable to do it justice on paper, nor would I want to spoil the show for any Fabian Woods virgins. However, I will say that Fabian unapologetically addressed the self-importance of White Australian’s and our reflexive tendency to judge the Aboriginal community harshly. Articulating censures such as these is intricate work and no easy feat. Yet, Fabian achieved this through slapstick and shark jokes.
I almost wish Fabian had pushed a little further; both my friend and I were willing him to lose all inhibition. We witnessed him back off a couple of jokes for fear of a negative reaction. He would talk himself down laughingly, “nah, I won’t go there.” But I wanted him to go there! It is exciting to know that Woods has more in the bag, and I theorise he will become louder and louder with each show.
I enjoyed the profanity, his authentic voice, and his humility. Fabian did not criticise others without poking fun at himself. Instead, he allowed us into his world, speaking of arguments with his partner and fatherhood. Reminding us it is okay to be imperfect. His comedy did not feel angry or spiteful, but I would not recommend attending his shows if you are unwilling to be humbled. Fabian Woods writes intelligent comedy with a purpose. I look forward to seeing what Mr. Woods does next.
Always Woods Always Will Be.