Reviews/Comedy/Fringe World Festival/Music

Campfire Ukulele Torture: torturer to some, prophet to others

24 January 2022

Someone told David Zampatti they’d seen enough of Tomás Ford. After Campfire Ukulele Torture he (still) begs to differ.

Tomás FordTomás Ford’s Campfire Ukulele Torture ·
The Laugh Resort, January 22, 2022 ·

Unlike last year’s Have a Bath With Me?, there was little danger of Tomás Ford turning into a puddle of sweat in the delightfully chilled confines of the Laugh Resort at the Shoe Bar in Yagan Square. In every other respect, though, his Campfire Ukulele Torture continues the same demented exploration of the psyche of the eponymous characters he has created.

This year’s “Tomás Ford” is, of all things, a scoutmaster leading a jamboree (though how he got a Working With Children card would be the stuff of the front page headlines in The West Australian these days). 

At tonight’s concert he’s entertaining his young charges on the ukulele with a selection of his own tunes. Some of the titles alone – Daddy IssuesABBA Sex DreamHallucinations of You, and Naked in a Stagnant Pool are among the milder – should disabuse you of any thought of taking the kiddies to see it.

There’d be more than just the, um, frank nature of much of his material to disturb them. 

And you, too, are likely to be discombobulated by Ford’s portrayal of a performer on the edge of a nervous breakdown: his fractured falsetto, the uke spinning in his hands – always just a half-turn too far – the glint in his eyes, the teeth in his crocodilian smile, his huge, hairy body (strangely, he seems nowhere like as big off-stage). He gets chords wrong, he loses words, songs stagger to a halt and get cranked up again. Abruptly, as if to divert them from his mistakes, he gets his little crowd to Mexican wave, to call back his scoutmaster moniker “Balloooooo!” 

It’s a mess.

But somehow, gradually, from the slime, a character slouches into our heads to be born. Ford tells a story, maybe from his own experience, of the woman in the tobacconist whose attitude changes when, one day, he comes to the shop in neat work clothes instead of his usual crappy gear, and we start to warm to this guy who’s going to live, and perform, exactly how he chooses.
By the time he’s finished with us, we’re forgiving his failures (slyly, there are fewer as the hour goes on), cheering his successes – and getting what he’s on about.

Ford hails from the middle of that huge sweep of southern suburban aridity bookended by Dave Faulkner’s Manning to the east and Dave Warner’s Bicton to the west. 

Perhaps, as the poet hoped, from deserts the prophets come.           

Tomás Ford: Campfire Ukulele Torture continues in the Laugh Resort until 26 January and the Kitson Room at Rendezvous Hotel Perth Scarborough until 11 February.

Pictured top: Tomás Ford goes full demented scoutmaster in Campfire Ukulele Torture. Photo by Di Star

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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