Monday, September 25, 2017

The Wharf Revue

Sydney Theatre Company

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre
until 23 September 2017
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
Photo by Samara Purnell

When certain individuals take the stage in politics, most of the western world holds its breath in anticipation, clenching just a little at the prospect of nuclear war. On the other hand, the Wharf Revue team must lick their lips in orgasmic bliss at the goldmine of eminently send-up-able characters, potential parodies and a script that practically writes itself.

Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott and Jonathan Biggins are joined by Blazey Best in a foray into egomaniacs sporting ridiculous hairstyles, and unmistakable affectations in “The Patriotic Rag”.
Guardians of the Galaxy Poll was hilarious and riotous, with Best’s Jacqui Lambie, as a Wonder from Down Under, leading a team of not-so-superheroes, lured to an abandoned Chinese restaurant in Belconnen. After being confronted by The Lizard of Oz - Tony Abbott, in green unitard and the ubiquitous red budgie-smugglers that have surely seen more mileage in Wharf Revues than our former PM ever gave them, a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” ensues, which was very well executed, as was the choreography in general this year. Best also gave James Ashby a going-over, accompanying Forsythe’s Pauline Hanson, with pin-point accuracy, well appreciated by the audience. Best is a good all-round performer and impersonator, but the skit with Julie Bishop in her “active wear” could have been omitted.

John Clarke was given a farewell in a Clarke and Bryan Dawe skit, at the Pearly Gates. The impersonations and timing were spot-on.

Historical speeches had been given a Donald Trump “make-over”, the result cleverly allowing the actors to simultaneously impersonate two figures. They maintained the “integrity” of their primary roles, with Louis XVI and Vlad the Impaler very amusing.

And of course, the Trump card, a variety night with the “POTUS”. Biggins as Trump, sporting a follicularly generous wig, had the President’s facial expressions and strut absolutely perfected. The Wharf team generally tends to stop short of utter farce and caricature, so no oompa loompa orange here. Vladimir Putin (Forsythe) joined Trump and his world leaders with an Ella Fitzgerald inspired “Combustible, untrustable, fine bromance”. (A jazz rendition of Putin on the Ritz would have been perfect about now!). Scott’s Kim Jong-un in “You can’t Stop The Kim!” gave us a disco take on imminent nuclear disaster.

Phillip Scott as Kim Jong-un
Photo by Samara Purnell

Although many of the one-liners and visual gags, such as the entry of “The Donald” are basically dad jokes, they still work.

It appears not even “Strayan” comedy is safe from political correctness now, as the glaring omissions of the same-sex marriage survey and Hanson’s burqa-in-the-Senate stunt begs the question: Has even the final frontier of comedy fallen victim to PC gone mad? There was a distinct feel that the audience had succumbed to it as well, almost nervous to laugh at some skits. Perhaps on opening night where the audience was comprised of media and politicians, this was more pronounced.

Toward the end of the show, some dialogue was lost due to the sound levels being low, but also the audience enthusiasm appeared to ebb slightly.

Once again we marvelled at the talent, wit and skill of the Wharf Revue team who often write, rework and memorise skits in mere days. Scott farewells the Wharf after this season concludes. Hopefully we will all be here this time next year to see what a new cast offers.