Mark it down now: Damian Callinan’s show is the best show at the Festival that involves testicles. You know, family jewels. Aggots. Googlies. Clag bags. Or in his case, spaznuts.
Callinan may be playing in one of the cosier rooms within the monolith that is the Melbourne Town Hall, but he is also a class act. Callinan is not afraid to get personal and draw us into his own life and experiences, and reveal his own weaknesses. This show is about Callinan’s battle with infertility and the effect that this had on his life. Along the way he had his masculinity challenged, split from his wife and received the sneers of people who confuse the worth of a person with the swimming ability of the contents of their scrotum.
Rather than opt for the relative safety of an hour of stand-up, Callinan has taken the road less traveled. The show is a piece of one man theatre complete with all the theatrical devices of an accomplished performer. The storyline takes us through Callinan’s experiences at MISTER, a self-help group for infertile men. With flashbacks aplenty, Callinan’s story is slowly revealed, much of it within the theatrical confines of a sperm sample suite. Callinan brilliantly moves from one character to another in telling his story, effortlessly changing accents and mannerisms. Particularly good are the cast of characters in the self-help group: the gay man, the blokey-bloke and the Enya-loving group leader who are all full of anxieties.
One of the highlights occurs before the show has even started. While waiting in line we are greeted by a sperm clinic nurse who’s there to take a sample, complete with little sample jars and the occasional big one. Callinan makes a damn fine nurse, even if the sight of him in a matron’s outfit is more likely to result in shrinkage than a sample.
Callinan and director Aidan Fennessy have done a sensational job in telling a difficult story in a way that leads to pride rather than pity. Spaznuts is probably not the funniest show at the festival, but it’s certainly one of the most thoughtful and intelligent.