Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Whoops!


Whoops! – The Wharf Revue by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott, with Amanda Bishop and Simon Burke. Musical director and accompanist, Andrew Worboys; sound and video designer, David Bergman; video artist, Todd Decker. Sydney Theatre Company at Canberra Theatre Playhouse, October 15-19, 2013.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 15

The central theme of last night’s Revue, so successfully expressed in the lengthy political satire based on the absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead, was thoroughly confirmed by the explanation in today’s Canberra Times (Times 2, p.4) by economics correspondent Peter Martin of why the award of a Nobel prize to the economists Eugene Fama, Robert Shiller and Lars Hansen is so invaluable.

As Martin reports, Australian economists Richard Holden at the University of NSW and Justin Wolfers at the Brookings Institution summed up the findings online as being that financial markets are efficient (Fama), except when they’re not (Shiller), and that we have empirical evidence to prove it (Hansen).

Though not all the fifteen items in this year’s Revue were as good as last year’s  Fall of the Garden of Earthly Delights, (the National Rifle Association country and western song, and even the ever-giggling Dalai Lama were a bit ordinary as satire goes), this year the “new maturity in the writing” which I noted last year, and the quality of the video work by David Bergman and Todd Decker, have become established.

The characterisations of Tony Abbott’s hypocrisy, Gina Rinehart’s pontifications, Bob Katter’s country pub pretence, and Julia Gillard as an operatic Carmen were all on the money (just  to maintain the economic metaphor).  In fact Amanda Bishop’s Gillard Habanera swansong, in that long slinky brilliant red gown, stirred the house to the same kind of reponse that we saw in the Sydney Opera House when Anne Summers interviewed the real Julia on September 30, 2013: (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-30/live-coverage-julia-gillard-at-the-sydney-opera-house/4989792).

This year, too, the whole company’s singing throughout, perhaps especially in The Tale of Eddie Obeid and The Wizard of Oz (who lives in The Lodge), demonstrated the point that effective satire depends on top quality performance.  For me the ultimate moment, or rather very long moments, came at the opening in excruciating silence of Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Instead which developed deeper and deeper into the sense that there is no possibility of these sidelined characters ever being able to understand the central characters of politics because, as the Nobel-winning economists have empirically proved about financial markets, politics make sense except when they don’t.

Whoops! leaves us all realising that we are all sidelined like R&G.  The laughter and extensive whoops of appreciation at the curtain calls can’t paper over the cracks which reveal the dark side of political life, which we are all engaged in whether we like it or not.  It’s only through art and science, as the Revue showed so well in the item The Culture Wars, that this kind of truth can be expressed.

We need the annual Wharf Revue, at least to be able to laugh at the absurdity.


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