Can you imagine yourself being shrunk by a scientific experiment gone wrong and then living in a man’s beard for two years? No? Neither can I, but luckily there’s a Fringe Show for that!
The Ballad of Frank Allen returns to the Adelaide Fringe Festival after two years of touring around, playing shows across Australia, and hitting the Canadian Fringe scene. I had a chat with writer, director and actor of The Ballad of Frank Allen, Shane Adamczak to find out more.
Tell me about The Ballad of Frank Allen!
The Ballad of Frank Allen is a two man buddy-comedy Sci-Fi, about a man who lives inside another man’s beard. It’s been compared to Ratatouille or Inner Space, and he ends up living in another guy’s beard for about two years.
Where did the idea spring from?
It came from my friend Al, when I was living in Montreal. He’s one of my favourite-st, beardiest men in my life. When he was leaving a podcast that we both worked on, I wrote a song that was called “The Ballad of Frank Allen.” It was basically a joke song attributing everything he had ever achieved to the tiny man that was living in his beard. We just thought it was such a ridiculously, funny idea. We turned it into a short story series and eventually I turned it into the play that’s been touring around the world.
It’s been two years since you’ve been on the Australian Fringe scene. Are you excited to head back to the Adelaide Fringe Festival?
We debuted the show at the Perth Fringe World in 2016. Then we took it to Adelaide and we’ve done the Melbourne Comedy Festival, before taking it to the Canada Fringe Scene. Really excited to come back to the Adelaide Fringe Festival actually! I’ve been doing the Adelaide Fringe for the longest time, since 2002 or 2003? I love Adelaide Fringe. It’s definitely changed a lot over the last few years; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, but it’s always a blast and I wouldn’t miss it.
So why Canada? How did the show go over there?
I lived in Montreal for two years and I’ve been touring Canada for ten years in the festival circuit over there with a few shows. Frank Allen, I would say, has been the most successful over there. It really helped that I had a couple of years behind me and that they knew who I was and were pretty excited about this project. It did really well! We won the Just For Laughs award, which is the big comedy award over there. That really helped to get people to come check it out.
Were there any major differences between the audiences in Australia and Canada? Any humour that didn’t translate well?
There were little bits, but I feel like out of the places I’ve travelled, the sense of humour is similar between Australia and Canada. There weren’t a lot of things I had to change in the show. In previous years, I learnt the lesson with the [last] show I brought over to Canada. I had to change a lot of very colloquial words and even products that people just didn’t know what they were. So when I wrote the next shows after that, I kept it quite universal. While The Ballad of Frank Allen is technically set in Montreal, it could be set anywhere and it doesn’t really matter as it’s all kind of set in a place where people just live.
Any memorable moments?
Well, when I did the last Canadian tour I actually had to recast the show as my co-star couldn’t do the tour. I actually got it recast with Al Lafrance, the guy who inspired the whole thing! He ended up playing the version of himself in the show, which is pretty bizarre as up till then it had been played by someone else. When Al came onboard we had to change the dynamic of the show a little bit, and found a bunch of new stuff that’s made it into the show - me and St. John Cowcher again.
That’s super meta.
Yeah, I know! It’s quite bizarre. We’ve since then recorded a soundtrack for the show which is gonna be available to buy at the shows. There’s a lot more songs and it’s a lot more physical. It’s a strange show and it’s a bit of a discovery and an exploration into the idea of mateship and manhood. What it means to be a man and a good man in this day and age.
Do you think that’s a pretty important thing given the current climate?
Absolutely. When I wrote it i didn’t have any major themes or anything in mind. I was just writing from the heart and this is what kind of emerged. These two men who’ve come from fairly different walks of life and both influence each other to become better men.
Sci-Fis and Musicals seem to going in circles with reboot after reboot. Is original Sci-Fi and Musical content important? How does the Ballad of Frank Allen fit in amongst all that?
Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think with Kevin Smith (director and writer), when he made the film 'Tusk' (about a guy who gets kidnapped and turned into a walrus), he basically said that the idea was so bizarre, and that no one was ever going to make that film unless he made that film. And that’s how I feel about this show. I’m never going to see a show about a man who gets trapped in another man’s beard unless I make that show myself. That’s what I try to do, I try to make something that I’ve never seen before and something that as an audience member I would be intrigued by. I think we need more of that, just more original ideas. As much as every now and then there’s a good reboot or remake, quite a lot of them don’t need to exist.
And has there been a good response to that?
A lot of the reviews talk about the originality of the piece, which makes me really happy, and the strength of the writing, which I also think is very important in a piece like this. It’s good to have people come out and say, “This is something I’ve never seen before. Thank you for bringing this here.” That really makes it all worth it for me.
Is that what people can expect from the show? Will they walk out with this experience of something they’ve never seen before?
I sure hope so. The show has evolved quite a bit since we did it here two years ago. For the better I think! The songs are a lot stronger, there’s a lot more action in the play, and the relationship between the characters is a lot stronger and more interesting. I mean, unless there’s another show about a guy who lives in a man’s beard that I don’t know about, I think it’s definitely going to be one of the weirdest things you’ll see this festival.
You can check out The Ballad of Frank Allen from March 3rd - 10th, 7:15PM (excluding Mondays) at the Producers Bar. Tickets can be purchased here.