World War Bob

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed Wednesday 27th April 2011

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 30thth April 2011
Duration: 90min no interval
Tickets: adult $40/conc $35
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

Written by Mark Trevorrow and Bill Harding, the production features ‘Pvt.’ Bob Downe, Trevorrow’s alter ego, in the starring role. He is ably assisted by Jane Markey ‘R.N.’, pianist, ‘Sgt.’ John Thorn, and drummer, ‘Cpl.’ Jeremy Hopkins. We are taken on a tour of duty through numerous theatres of war, from the Crimea and Boer Wars, through both World Wars, Vietnam, Iraq, and more. The music associated with the various conflicts is presented in the form of a troop entrainment devised by Pvt. Downe. Bringing a new meaning to the term Army Camp, Trevorrow presented a successful and popular version of this show in the 2009 Cabaret Festival and this is a tightened and more polished version of the original.

It is perfectly timed to follow on from Anzac Day, keeping those memories alive for more than just the one day of the year. Like Anzac Day celebrations it encompasses all of the conflicts in which Australian and New Zealand forces have been involved. It is interesting to note that early songs supported and celebrated the actions of the troops and were offering encouragement whereas, from Korea and Vietnam onwards, the songs were more often protests against the wars. From WWI and WWII songs like Keep the Home Fires Burning, Pack Up Your Troubles, and other songs with a positive sentiment we see a dramatic change to songs such as Eve of Destruction and Little Boxes. The anti-war songs give a much more realistic view of what war really means.

Trevorrow appears as both Bob Downe and as himself during the performance, reflecting the seriousness of much of the content. He does not shy away from the anti-war activism of the 1960s, appearing as himself in those darker sections, leaving the lighter segments to Bob. It is fascinating to see his two personae side by side in this context and to watch how he uses Bob to highlight aspects in a way that only Bob can. Trevorrow is, as we all know, a talented performer and it is good to have a chance to see him as himself for once.

Jane Markey covers all the bases, playing everything from Brittania to Bob’s mother to Salome. This versatile performer has been working with Trevorrow for several decades and the rapport they have established over that time really shows. John Thorn and Jeremy Hopkins are hardly strangers to the team, nor do they get off lightly. Both are singers, Thorn a bass baritone and Hopkins a light baritone, and Hopkins is also an actor. Trevorrow makes use of those skills. Hopkins, especially, delivers a couple of very well received numbers during the show. They are also involved in the many comedic aspects of the show. Even their ‘dresser’, Anne Wills, gets a cameo appearance, with much applause from her many fans in the audience

It is not all fun and frivolity, however, and Trevorrow questions what good things have ever come out of war, apart from the songs. The answer is, clearly, very little and, what there is, is not worth the costs. The futility of war is brought our clearly in the later part of the show when Markey, as Bob’s mother, Mrs. Ida Downe, leads the audience in a sing-a-long of songs of the World Wars which Bob interrupts and brings up to date, particularly emphasising War (What Is It Good For?). Trevorrow ends the performance, as he did in his 2009 production, by dedicating it to his late father and calling for a one minute silence in memory of all of those who lost their lives in wars.

This fine production has a very short run and closes on Saturday, so you do not have much time. If you want to see this show get a ticket now.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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