Saturday, October 28, 2023

THE WHARF REVUE - Pride in Prejudice.


Drew Forsythe - Jonathan Biggins - David Whitney - Mandy Bishop in "Pride in Prejudice"

Written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott

Co-Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe

Musical Direction by Andrew Worboys – Costumes designed by Hazel and Scott Fisher

Lighting Design by Matt Cox - Video Design by Todd Decker -

Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and David Whitney with Andrew Worboys.

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse 26 October – 5th November 2023.

Opening night performance reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

David Whitney (Peter Dutton) - Drew Forsythe (Stephen Miles) - Mandy Bishop (Tanya Plibersek - Jonathan Biggins (Anthony Albanese)

Over the years The Wharf Revue team have transformed political cabaret into an art form. This latest edition is an excellent example.  Once again their barbs are sharp, skewering their targets with pin-point accuracy. Their impersonations are masterful and their victims immediately recognisable.

The laughs come non-stop, regardless of your political persuasion. This year they commence with the first line of the opening sketch, a re-imagining of “Pride and Prejudice”, for which gender-blind casting is taken to a whole new extreme. Jonathan Biggins plays the dowager, Mrs Bingley, Drew Forsythe and David Whitney are the two sisters, and the remarkable Mandy Bishop is Mr. Darcy. It works a treat, not only because the lines are clever, but because of the finesse the performers bring to theircharacterisations.

Each of the cast is a highly skilled performer with the ability to quickly conjure up the essential characteristics of their targets as deftly as any cartoonist. Whether he’s being King Charles communing with his late mother, Anthony Albanese leading his band of merry men, or “public enema No.1”, Donald Trump, Jonathan Biggins is immediately, hilariously present as his target.

Drew Forsythe (Rudy Guliani) - Jonathan Biggins (Donald Trump)

Similarly Drew Forsythe, whether morphing between a heavenly Queen Elizabeth bemoaning having to meet up with people she hoped never to see again; Rudy Juliani escaping prison and heading for Mar-A-Lago with Biggins’ Donald Trump; a sleepy President Biden conferring with Mandy Bishop’s Caroline Kennedy, or a besotted Gina Rinehart duetting at the bow of Clive Palmer’s sinking Titanic, fascinates with his ability to invest his characters with a hint of Chaplinesque poignancy.

Drew Forsythe (Queen Elizabeth 11) - Jonathan Biggins (King Charles)
Mandy Bishop (Queen Elizabeth 1st)

Woman of a thousand voices, Mandy Bishop continues to amaze with her remarkable dramatic and vocal talents. While her “Ladies who Lunch” in the Sondheim segment, and her classy jazz rendition of “Toughen Up and Fly Right” sung as Sussan Ley in the Basement, would be the envy of any cabaret diva; her extraordinary versatility is showcased in her performances as a coy Princess Di, her Sarah Hanson-Young, and her all singing/dancing AI robot opposite Jonathan Biggins’ Stuart Roberts. But it is her not-so-coy turn as Jackqui Lambie presenting Playschool with David Whitney’s David Pocock that is likely to have ABC executives reaching for the Alka-Seltzer.

Mandy Bishop (Jacqui Lambie) - David Whitney (David Pocock)

In this year’s edition, David Whitney is replacing Phil Scott, who’s on sabbatical. However, Scott was spotted in the first night audience, and even makes a guest appearance via video as a voluble Kevin Rudd.

Whitney fits the team like a glove, especially when portraying Prince Phillip or a Russian General. But it is his turn as a petulant Peter Dutton, who finds himself in the wrong musical as “The Guy who must say No”, that will linger in your memory.

Drew Forsythe (President Biden) - Mandy Bishop (Caroline Kennedy)

Also making an invaluable contribution to this year’s edition is another newbie, Musical Director Andrew Worboys, whose versatility on keyboards allows him to tackle any musical genre with panache.

Brilliant videoed segments by Todd Decker mask the lightning fast costume changes, allowing the show to flow so quickly that there is barely time to catch breathe between segments or to dwell on the fact that the real brilliance of the Wharf Revues lies in their ability to make us laugh about topics which might otherwise cause us to weep.  

                                                       Images by Vishal Pandey

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.