Not Quite Christmas. Shortis&Simpson (shortisandsimpson.com) - A satirical, seasonal tour 14 Nov 2015 – 5 Dec 2015 at Café Wood Works, Bungendore; Robertson Community Technology Centre; Nerrigundah AG Bureau, Nerrigundah (25 minutes drive west of Bodalla on Eurobodalla Road); Teatro Vivaldi, ANU campus, Fri/Sat December 4/5.
Reviewed by Frank McKone
It isn’t really Christmas that’s “not quite”. It’s more about what we might get for Christmas after the last year or two politically. Not quite what we would like.
Most of the songs use music that’s well known, and often easy to sing along with, but John Shortis’ words and his and Moya Simpson’s performances are much more than “quite”. This year’s satire is very good – and at the same time very traditional.
This is anything but a criticism, but may need to be explained to readers around the world outside the Bungendore – Queanbeyan – Canberra axis of goodness. If New York is the Big Apple, Shortis&Simpson is like the trunk of the tree of knowledge, which was planted in the Queanbeyan School of Arts Café at the dawn of time in 1996 and bears fruit at this time of each year, harvested at various scrumptious locations.
Vivaldi’s has become a worthy descendant of the original Q School of Arts Café – which closed in 2000 after too much excitement for Bill, Pat and Tim Stephens to handle – and since the untimely end of Dominic Mico’s ownership of Smith’s Alternative Bookshop. Looking vaguely like the Famous Spiegeltent (the real one will be here in Canberra early next year), and dressed up with several thousand Christmas LEDs, the atmosphere enhanced by a three-course meal and stimulated by wine from the bar was ready for knowing laughter.
I could legitimately mention every number in the show, all being equal. But for the sake of witty brevity I’ll give space to three, for their different qualities.
For clever rhyming, John’s forté, the Bill Shorten song took the unwrap the parcel prize. Every line rhymed with Bill in the manner of all those nasty parliamentarians’ name calling – like “Electricity Bill”. But none of them ever came near to the rhyme “pterodactyl”. You had to listen very carefully to see how that came about! I hope John will publish the words of his songs as a lasting record.
For Moya’s voice, after her gravelly rendition of Bob Dylan’s new song “The 21st Century’s been reinstalled: The Times They are A-Changing”, I could not go past her commemoration “Vale Cilla Black” – a quite extraordinary range to match “the woman with two voices”.
And for unstoppable laughter there was the old trick of the two drunkards talking about our political leaders: Shill Bortern, Talcum Murnbull and Ony Tabbott who let Creta Pedlin cun the runtry when he was Mine Primister. It doesn’t look so funny on paper, but after a good five minutes of sincere drunken commentary on our lopitical peaders, vivatro tealdi was a lyot of rafter. It was amazing how much seemed to make sensible critical political commentary. A glass or so of sauvignon blanc made even better sense of it.
And on a serious note, apart from asking God to take Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi away somewhere – anywhere – there was no need to unwrap the parcel for the asylum seeker children still in detention. We all knew what their best Christmas present would be.
I think I’m right to point out that Shortis&Simpson have succeeded where many others have fallen by the wayside. In their 20th year they constitute the longest running professional theatre company in our history, excepting Canberra Youth Theatre and The Jigsaw Company. I think that makes John and Moya an Institution – not to be sneezed – or laughed at!