Reviewsday: The Last Showman

An excellent Aussie autobiographical yarn of Fred Brophy and his boxing tent, an old institution banned almost everywhere in the western world … as well as in Victoria and New South Wales here (Fred will often wish visitors from these two states a happy ‘Welcome to Australia!’). As a boxer, the tent-boxing idea has fascinated me for a while, particularly how important it is for someone like Fred to be able to match up the volunteers with his fighters, sell the judgements on the contests to the crowd so that he makes a dollar and doesn’t cause a riot, and also for the fighters to out-fight their opponents … but not by too much, so they’ll be welcome back next time.

Sue Williams does an excellent job of appearing to be absolutely absent from the text; Fred’s laconic humour and often contradictory recollections and ideas-on-life come through just as though he was sitting next to you at a bar in Birdsville over a XXXX beer. Deliciously, what is left out or brushed over is often where you think the meat of the story may be, but there’s still enough in there to marvel at and tickle your funny bone. There’s a bit of repetition and a few editorial misses here and there, but a good unpretentious read about a larrikin ‘old mate’.

-Jeremy, Doncaster QBD

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