Sunday, July 3, 2016

Stop the Votes, We Want To Get Off. Election Special by Shortis and Simpson


Stop the Votes, We Want To Get Off by Shortis and Simpson.  At Teatro Vivaldi, ANU, Canberra, July 2, 7pm and July 3, 2pm, 2016.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

John Shortis’ and Moya Simpson’s political satire over the years has been gentle, mostly funny and occasionally sad.  But one song in Stop the Votes, We Want To Get Off bucked the trend.

“Big Bad Mal”, written surprisingly from a right-wing perspective with an unusual level of bitterness, was introduced with the observation that a certain Doctor Brendan Nelson, on the occasion of Malcolm Turnbull’s first incarnation as Leader of the Liberal Party, over the dead body of Dr Nelson himself, had diagnosed Mansion Malcolm as suffering a ‘narcissistic personality disorder’.

As the election rolled on over into Sunday morning with too many seats undecided for either major party to claim victory, the contrast between the positivity of the speech by Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten and the vicious, ungratious and even manic, flailing attack speech by Turnbull demonstrated that Shortis and Simpson got it dead right.

Since my task here is to review John and Moya’s performance rather than Malcolm Turnbull’s, you can find their source in a 2015 Sydney Morning Herald article by Paul Sheehan at http://www.smh.com.au/comment/conservatives-fear-turnbull-is-a-narcissist-who-cannot-change-20150916-gjnusc.html .

The sad song was about live export of cattle and their recent treatment in a Vietnamese abbatoir.  The saddest part was that Moya only had to revive the song she had previously performed after the ABC TV Four Corners program exposed the same animal cruelty in Indonesia in 2011. 

Click on www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20110530/cattle/ , and then consider the laughs from the speech by the (perhaps) Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (almost certainly re-elected in his New England seat) making a link between asylum seekers and live cattle.  After all, they’re all on boats.  Some get turned back, some drown at sea, some get slaughtered horribly in off-shore centres.

Stop the Votes, We Want To Get Off was actually a highly original pork barrel of laughs on election night, with a repeat performance this afternoon, Sunday July 3 at 2pm – except for the election itself, which it seems will be regurgitated with burps until all the pre-votes and postal votes are counted.  Don’t expect a result until at least Wednesday July 6, at which time ANU political historian Professor Nicholas Brown hopes for a ‘well-hung parliament’ in the House of Representatives, while we wait perhaps for some more days or even weeks until the preference votes for the Senate are all distributed.

The Professor’s lecture The History of the Double Dissolution was both entertaining and highly informative, following the pattern he has set in Shortis and Simpson’s annual shows at the National Archives when Cabinet Papers of earlier years are released for publication.

Professor Brown sat on a ‘table of experts’ with the cartoonist Geoff Pryor and ANU political scientist John Warhurst.  The evening was rather like watching reality tv live on stage, with songs interspersed with bits of the ABC TV live coverage between three song sets, bits recorded from the coverage between songs, other very funny video recordings (such as from Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell on the Electoral Commission’s How to Vote information), commentary from the experts’ table, karaoke singalongs, a quiz on Shorten and Turnbull in red, green and blue teams, and of course the real voting to see who would come in, who would stay, and who would be turfed out of the House. 

All this in the Teatro Vivaldi bar, with food and drink flowing, made for a terrific convivial party atmosphere.  Early on, I found myself thinking of David Williamson’s Don’s Party, written in 1971 about the 1969 election when Labor had high hopes but failed to turf out the Liberals.  Moya, speaking privately, hoped her party participants would not fall into depression and consequently indulge in drunken sexual hanky-panky as happens in that play (though I was a bit concerned about the part of her title We Want To Get Off).  And indeed, despite the obvious inclination of everyone I spoke to and overheard towards a new government, John and Moya kept the tone positive, bookended by their version of the awful Frank Sinatra:  “And now the end is near ... would we endure it all again?  We say, ‘No Way’”. 

All sang in uproarious unison by the end of the show (nearly 11pm), after the exhaustive Rhyming Bill song, the Carnaby Barnaby Street (with Sesame Street overtones) song, the Minority Salsa song and dance (in which Shortis danced marginally better than Shorten), the Section 57 Double Dissolution song, and on the international stage, the Hillaree, Hillarah – I’ve Got to Watch my Back song and the That’s Why the Donald is a Trump song.

The final accolade for Shortis and Simpson’s Stop the Votes, We Want To Get Off came direct from the (perhaps) Prime Minister himself: “There is a no more exciting time to be doing satire!”







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