Sunday, May 26, 2013

PRIME TIME

Writer/Dramaturg: John Romeril
Songwriter: John Shortis
Director: Catherine Langman
The Q, Queanbeyan until June 1

Review by Len Power 25 May 2013



Beware of the great idea - if you're not careful, it can turn around and bite you.  A musical review about all of Australia's Prime Ministers certainly sounds like a great idea, but that's where the trap is.  Not all of Australia's Prime Ministers were interesting people and the earlier Prime Ministers are harder to relate to simply because we don't know as much about them.  Fashioning a show around all of them means you’re stuck with the lot, whether you can find something to fascinating to say about them or not.

John Shortis’s songs lack inspiration.  There needed to be more variety in the musical styles and many of the lyrics were clever but did not illuminate the subject of the song.  A low point in the show was the song, “Bob Menzies’ Balls” – enough said!  A good song about Ben Chifley, however, did work and I wish there had been more like this.  Accompanied by an interesting anecdote about the man and his telephone number, we got a real sense of his personal qualities in a very short space of time.  At that moment, the show took off, but it was not to last.

According to the program notes from the producers, writer and dramaturg John Romeril, suggested the backwards chronology for the show.  It starts off brightly with topical fun about recent Prime Ministers but the second half is then stuck with the tough times like the 1930s Depression, when we could do with some lighter moments in this overlong show.  The addition of the electorate as a fictional couple, one who leans to the left and the other to the right is an obvious device that just holds the show up.  They’re as dull as some of the Prime Ministers.

In spite of the lacklustre material, there is some good work on display here.  The multi-talented Kate Hosking is a standout in the show, acting, singing and playing both double bass and electric bass.  Moya Simpson and Eric Byrne sing appealingly and John Shortis accompanies them all very well on piano.  Members of the Worldly Goods Choir are used very well and their singing is excellent.

With a striking production design by Imogen Keen and great audio visuals by Catherine Langman, Imogen Keen, Robert Bunzli and Evan Croker, the director, Catherine Langman, has come up with some pleasing imaginative ideas for the show.  Costumes designed by Imogen Keen for the choir and Kate Hosking and Eric Byrne worked well but Moya Simpson and John Shortis looked like they were part of a different show with their individual costumes.

Immediately after interval, we were told that we still have fourteen Prime Ministers to go.  At that moment I wished we’d had more who had lasted as long as Menzies.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 26 May 2013

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