Sir Robert’s Sporting Legends sees the return of Bob Franklin’s critically-acclaimed character to Melbourne Fringe after winning the festival’s Best Comedy Award in 2018. Tucked away in the Evatt room of Trades Hall (if you don’t know who Evatt is, head to Wikipedia for a wild ride), Franklin is clearly enjoying himself.
The small room provides just the right amount of intimacy, allowing the audience to closely study Franklin’s every gesture and quiet musing. Indeed, in many ways, Sporting Legends is a quiet show; there’s no big fanfare, no fountains of obscenity, no wildly flailing arms. Franklin wanders slowly back and forth across the stage as Sir Robert, softly spoken and completely engaging.
Truly uncomfortable at times, as most of Franklin’s best shows are, Sporting Legends tackles themes including hypocrisy, cronyism, corruption, domestic violence, animal cruelty, defence law and racism, all viewed neatly through the frame of hero worship. Introducing himself as the MC at a lavish function for a certain disgraced sporting legend’s charity, Franklin discusses three highly flawed famous Australians, calmly and effortlessly picks apart their true legacy, cleverly and subtly switching from ally to innocent inquisitor.
This could have been a risky proposition. It would’ve been easy to miss the mark and instead normalise some of the shocking (and occasionally violent) behaviour under discussion, but Franklin makes an informed and valuable contribution while pushing the boundaries just enough to really get you thinking. If you’re incapable of hearing a bad word about your sporting heroes, then this may not be for you. However, if you’re increasingly concerned about the double standards on show in Australian sporting culture, or simply up for an engaging and thoughtful show, Sir Robert’s Sporting Legends is for you.
Sir Robert’s Sporting Legends is on at Trades Hall as part of Melbourne Fringe until the 20th September.