Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Wharf Revue – Back to Bite You

Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott, Jonathan Biggins
in Back to Bite You The Wharf Revue 2016
Photo by Hon Boey
The Wharf Revue 2016 – Back to Bite You, written and created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott, performed with Paige Gardiner (originally with Katrina Retallick).  Sydney Theatre Company at Wharf 1, October 19 – December 23, 2016.

Musical Director – Phillip Scott; Lighting Designer – Matthew Marshall; Sound and Video Designer – David Bergman; Costumes – Scott Fisher and Nick Godlee; Wig Stylist – Margaret Aston; Video Artist – Todd Decker;  Music Tracks – Andrew Worboys.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 29

Someone told me they were disappointed that no sitting Prime Minister appeared in this year’s Wharf Revue.  But Malcolm Caesar was spoken about in such glowing or scathing terms by so many Senators in Ancient Rome AD 2016, that we did not need to see him in person to know all about him.  The Treasurer “didn’t come to bury him, but to praise him”.

On the other hand, perhaps the Revue Creators simply could not find anything funny about him to present.  While on the third hand, they had no difficulty presenting Antonius Abbottus doing a fandango fan dance in red budgie smugglers, now banished to the isolated island of Warringah.

As always Drew Forsythe was absolutely remarkable in every role, as was Jonathan Biggins, both live and on video; Phillip Scott played the grand in every impossible style from Dave Brubeck to Gilbert and Sullivan; and Paige Gardiner was wonderful all the way from Juliana, the experienced vestal virgin, through a West Side Story conservative illegal Mexican horrified at Donald Trump, to a terrific characterisation of Hillary – who nearly forgot to mention the other minority group: Women!

The meeting Georgie Brandis called to negotiate terms with Pauline Hanson (Forsythe) and Jacqui Lambe (Gardiner) – she called him Georgie – was a great example of political and other types of innuendo, one of the best among a lengthy series of skits taking us all the way from the Shakesperean politics of Ancient Rome, through the less than enlightening politics of the Australian Parliament (Brandis had to explain to Pauline that she had been in the Green House last time – before she went to jail courtesy of Tony Abbott – but now she is in the Red Senate, but the House isn’t Green now that M Caesar has a one-seat majority), and finally on to the American shenanigans of Bernie, Hillary and Donald.

This historical perspective gave this year’s Revue an intellectual depth, with satirical finesse (and terrific use of video) which makes it one of the best.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Katrina Retallik, but Paige Gardiner was certainly a very fine performer as actor, dancer and singer, fully up to the mark required by the Wharf Revue tradition.

What will change when the US election result is announced I can’t guess, but it could well be worth another trip to Sydney to find out.

But in the end the most powerful episode in this year’s Revue was not a black satirical piece, but the warm, loving, wonderful visit from Heaven by the ever shambolic but so erudite Bob Ellis.  Not to be missed – yet how much do we miss him.

And so it goes….