[COMEDY: Interview] 20 Golden Greats
20 Golden Greats
Downe And Under
By Roslyn Helper
Mark Trevorrow, better known as camp comedian Bob Downe, didn’t want to do a solo show at first. “I did it because I had to!” he exclaims, somewhat indignantly. “You get spoilt, working with bands and working with other people. You know what I mean? Being backstage and on the road with musicians and other performers is actually a lot of fun. Being on the road completely by yourself can get a little bit lonely and boring.”
Downe has been a much loved character on Australia’s entertainment scene for nearly 30 years now, and his most recent one-man show, 20 Golden Greats, has toured to London, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Adelaide Fringe Festival and Melbourne Comedy Festival. “It’s been wonderful. It’s the first solo show I’ve done for about 15 years and I’m really enjoying it. And I think the audiences are too, so it isn’t just me,” he adds. “I didn’t want to do it at first, but once I started, and once I got back on top of it, I realised that it was very freeing.”
Downe did his first run of club and RSL shows five years ago, and says the only way to make them feasible was to perform without a live band or cast. 20 Golden Greats developed out of Trevorrow’s experiences on the RSL circuit: “It’s a bunch of great old pop and rock and disco classics with lots of stupid jokes and monologues, and prizes,” he says. “I do a little bit of a trivia thing in-between; I ask questions about the songs I’m singing and [the winners] get a Bob Downe CD.”
I ask Trevorrow what’s kept Bob Downe going for so many years, and he shoots back, “Paying the rent, really.” But it’s clear that it’s more than just a way to pay the bills, as Trevorrow continues, “He’s very much a reflection of where I’m at, at any particular time. So the material at the moment is a little more political than it’s been in the past. I’m doing stuff about gay marriage”.
Trevorrow says he never writes anything down, or rehearses in any formal sense. “The show’s always evolving; I just get on [stage] and do it… It all just sits in my head. A lot of my comedian friends who have written it out word for word are very nervous and anxious people, but I’m not really like that, I’m a bit more relaxed. And also Bob lets me be a bit more relaxed, because Bob’s very slap-dash and casual and naughty and mischievous, and looks like he’s making it up as he’s going along,” he says.
Before we finish, I have to know: how many wigs has Downe gone through? “Actually not that many!” Trevorrow exclaims. “I’m only on about my fourth or fifth in 29 years. You have to take good care of them. I’ve had a lot more costumes than that,” he adds, saying he gets many of his outfits from thrift stores in San Francisco. “[California] really went for it in the ‘60s and ‘70s with all that polyester stuff, and it has a phenomenal network of second hand and thrift stores… My costumes are a lot brighter and a lot happier than they used to be,” he points out. “It used to be a lot more beige and bland [but] now I love the fact that I wear bold colours and geometric shapes and things that look like a cartoon. I like [Bob Downe] to look like a ‘50s or ‘60s cartoon.”
What: 20 Golden Greats with Bob Downe
Where: Sydney Theatre / 22 Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay
When: May 23-26