Monday, December 5, 2016

Shortis and Simpson - Voting Dangerously

Who's in the picture:  L to R, Top to Bottom: "We can make Canberra sing again!"

Australian Labor Party Opposition Leader Bill Shorten: "Who can shorten your attention span?  Billy can!"
Ex-UK before Brexit Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Boris Johnson, UK Foreign Secretary after Brexit.
Australian Minister for Immigration (including - sorry, excluding - refugees) Peter Dutton.
Australian one-time radio talkback broadcaster, founder (April 2016), leader of Derryn Hinch's Justice Party  and now Senator, Derryn Hinch.
Hillary Clinton, majority popular vote winner, US non-President-Elect.
Donald Trump, non-majority popular vote winner but majority weird Electoral College voting system winner, US President Elect.
Australian Conservative - sorry, Liberal - Party current leader, Prime Minister Malcolm (Muddle Headed Wombat) Turnbull.
Even more Australian Conservative - sorry Liberal - Party ex-Leader, backbencher Tony (Mr Rabbot) Abbott.
Moya Simpson and John Shortis
Australian just about Tea-Party Conservative founder and leader of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party and now Senator, Pauline Hanson.


The Year of Voting Dangerously.  Shortis&Simpson at Teatro Vivaldi, ANU Canberra, December 2, 2016.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

The mood of this year’s ‘satirical look’ at political events by John Shortis and Moya Simpson, at the dreadful end of their second decade, is expressed perfectly in their title. 

They were still upbeat playing Stop the Votes, We Want to Get Off on election night in July (“a terrific convivial party atmosphere”, I wrote then).  But after the conservatives (in this upside down country called the Liberal Party) clung on with a one-seat win in the lower house, following June’s Brexit referendum in the Mother Country and now compounded by calling Trumps for the wild card in the poker game for Leader of the Free World, a sense of danger and insecurity made satirical fun into something less convivial and rather more terrifying.

We still laughed a lot, of course (and Vivaldi’s food and wine was as encouraging as ever), but I couldn’t help feeling rather too much like Bottom, whistling.  Shakespeare understood his politics in The Dream.  At least 400 years later we get to vote.  But is that just another whistle in the wind?

Three numbers framed the mood for me. 

I first heard the first, the Pauline Hanson fish-and-chip-shop song, when I reviewed the first Shortis&Simpson show in 1996!  [Shortis and Curleys at the one-time Queanbeyan School of Arts Cafe for the Canberra Times and now at]  

At the time I couldn’t possibly foresee the significance that her One Nation Party would have this year, now with four Senators, considering her collapse in the 1999 Federal election and the break up with David Oldfield forming his One Nation NSW to get himself into that State’s upper house (just for the eight years required to give him an over-the-top parliamentary superannuation pension for the rest of his life). 

Please explain how that song can still be as awfully relevant as if nothing has changed in 20 years, except the names of the ethnic groups she vilifies.

The third was not a song but a beautifully told very funny children’s story of Mr Rabbot and Malcolm the Muddle-Headed Wombat continuing to vie for the leadership of all the animals.  As Malcolm, on his second time around, becomes even more muddle-headed, Mr Rabbot has gathered his friends for his second try – Cory, Eric, and several others – and, the story ends, “You know what rabbots do...!” 

Enough said.  What horror!

The words of my second song, which was given a reprise (before the audience insisted on an encore – of Bob Dylan concluding ironically with The times, they are a’changing) told us in no uncertain terms that though satire can be good fun, sometimes it’s just not possible to laugh.  These are the words recorded in the ABC’s Four Corners interviews with the children still held after three years on Nauru – refugees whose teachers from Save the Children have been removed and told they may be jailed for telling us about our Government’s treatment of people in dire need.

Immediately after watching that program, John Shortis wrote a quiet, almost pretty, but terribly sad song.  Moya sang without pretension the children’s words:

We’re not criminals,
We’re not dangerous.
We’re refugees
So tell us please
We’re still here?

Why indeed?