Tuesday, 28 September 2004

I Spied by David Callan, Sept 28, 2004

I Spied - True Confessions of an Ex-ASIO Spook 
by David Callan 
Chapel off Chapel Sept 28 to Oct 17, 2004
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

David Callan's solo comedy show, I Spied, is polished, political, personal and very, very funny. 

It parodies ASIO, that bastion of Australian espionage, and challenges our James Bond influenced conceptions of the well-dressed spy.

Callan's satirical view of spies, terrorism and media-led wars is scarily accurate. He worked inside ASIO from 1986 to 1993 and knows precisely how boring it is being a spook.

The 75-minute show is not stand and deliver comedy.  Callan, dressed in a suit, tie and very shiny shoes, peoples the stage with eccentric, powerful, frightening and hilariously dull spies he has known.

He embodies, for our delectation, the infamous Bond - James Bond.  His Sean Connery impersonation is impeccable and his description of Bond's poor spying technique is hilarious. Who can be inconspicuous driving a yellow sports car with missiles?

Callan paces like a caged lion across his stage, recreating his life in ASIO, from baby spy to rebel.

He began as a humble mail boy. Let's rephrase that - in the humble position of mail boy. There is nothing humble or retiring about Callan, s a self-confessed loud mouth, wise-cracker and 'crap spy'.

Spies are subtle patient and discreet. "I am none of these," he quips.

He relives his interview with the dullest spy in the world and graduates from spy school after learning how dull and bureaucratic spying can be.

The offices of ASIO sound like a smug Private Boys School complete with pranks to relieve the boredom of paper pushing and Prefects to boss you.

There is a fascinating balance of parody of ASIO and a respect for its work. Callan satirises the Gulf War, The Fall of the Berlin War, the Gulf War, the War on Terror and John Howard's fridge magnets.

There is also a powerful sense of the underlying gravity of the work that continues inside those offices.

After wheeling his mail trolley, being a terrified hostage in a training exercise, he moved to a locked office where, for three years,  he watched wars come over his desk and over the CNN air waves.

His comical exit from ASIO is a series of faux pas with a final swan song. His political version of the old standard love song, Let's Do It is a treat.

LOOK FOR: The opening sequence - a clever physical mimetic scene with Callan as Bond.

By Kate Herbert

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