Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Wharf Revue 2018 Déjà Revue - Sydney Theatre Company

Review by John Lombard I have never seen Malcolm Turnbull as a Disney princess before, but after tonight’s Wharf Revue he irrevocably takes his place in that pantheon.

The Revue strikes gold with its opening sketch, casting petite Rachel Beck as principal boy Malcolm in a Cinderella panto, with Tony Abbott stepmother keeping the plucky Malcolm from his true love, the charmless Prince Dutton.

Beck sings songs from the Disney canon with a narcissistic twist: Part Of Your World becomes Poor Little Me, while When You Wish Upon A Star is a promise that they will All Vote For You. 

Malcolm’s dashing seduction of a wooden Dutton is appropriately enough set to Something There from Beauty and the Beast.

This year lanky and rubber-faced Jonathan Biggins is the only returning primary cast member, with Phillip Scott retired from the revue and Drew Forstyle withdrawing due to illness. But Simon Burke provides an able short-notice substitute, and together with Douglas Hansell and Andrew Worboys the new team perpetuate the spirit of the revue.

As is often the case for the Revue’s sole female performer, Rachel Beck steals many scenes: not only for her winsome Malcolm Turnbull, but as a feisty Michaelia Cash given to balletic spins on her handy mobile whiteboard.

Sketches like an avant-garde percussion piece on our addition to plastics and a Book of Mormon parody showed off the adroit timing and musicality of the performers, while Jonathan Biggins was unable to resist resurrecting his notorious Bob Brown dance.

After a fiery start, the Revue lost energy as it began to focus on Trump: where the satire of Australian politics is adroitly observed, Trump here feels like a cartoon of a cartoon. A lengthy sketch cast Trump as initiate of a Rat Pack of nasty “leader for life” dictators, but Trump’s invincible lack of self-awareness made this sketch an oddly melancholy note to end to night.

Better was Paul Keating taking the podium for a roast of the entire liberal leadership, casting the foul-mouthed Keating as a witty slam poet, and a full circle reminder that egomania has never been far from Australian politics.

But overall this was a bold, warm, and entertaining Wharf Revue. While styled as a “Déjà Revue”, this year’s Revue was a confident declaration that even if the show is forced to change, it will stay the same: a welcome burst of annual music and mockery, and one where all sides of Australian politics can unite in common weariness.