Tuesday, October 30, 2018

THE WHARF REVUE 2018 - Deja Revue

Designed by Charles Davis - Musical Direction by Andrew Worboys
Costumes coordinated by Scott Fisher – Lighting design by Matt Cox
Sound and Video designed by David Bergman

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse – 23rd October to 3rd November 2018
Performance 23rd October reviewed by Bill Stephens,

Returning to its political heartland in Canberra, The Wharf Revue, this year entitled “Deja Revue”, was greeted by an eager audience anxious to devour their annual helping of outrageous political insights as seen through the eyes of writers, Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe.

Despite having only one of the originals in this year’s edition, (Phil Scott having retired, and Drew Forsythe struck down by illness), the ever-popular Wharf Revue still fielded  a topline cast in Jonathan Biggins, Simon Burke (replacing Drew Forsythe at short notice), Rachael Beck and Douglas Hansell, with Andrew Worboys providing the music and miscellaneous characters as required. All are skilled in creating recognizable thumbnail sketches of those victims selected for skewering by Biggins and Forsythe with their wickedly funny scripts.

Rachael Beck (Principal Boy) and Douglas Hansell (Prince Charmless)
As with previous editions, the Wharf Revue uses parodies of well-known musicals, operas or plays as setting for its skits. But what sets it apart are the production values for its sets and costumes, and the authenticity of the staging.  Hence this year we have “The Book of Cormann” with four versions of Mathias Cormann spreading the word, and a pantomime with Principal Boy, Rachael Beck as Malcolm Turnbull, singing “Poor Little Me” while the two ugly sisters, Eric Abetz (Simon Burke) and Kevin Andrews (Andrew Worboys) and the wicked stepmother (snake-tongued Jonathan Biggins) vie for the attention of Prince Charmless (Douglas Hansell spot-on as Peter Dutton).

The audience entered the theatre to be greeted by a beautiful Victorian toy-theatre setting, designed by Charles Davis. The irrepressible Biggins, impeccably costumed in red velvet as an ageing, and possibly medically enhanced, Buttons, takes the stage to welcome the audience. Too soon he lapses into kiddy shaming, confides that he’s been warned, but continues a hilariously potty-mouthed harangue until dragged off by the stage-manager.  

Rachael Beck (Michaelia Cash) - Jonathan Biggins (Bob Brown) 
Following the panto, the toy-theatre transforms into contemporary scaffolding setting. How this is achieved is one of the visual highlights of the production. Among an evening of comedy highpoints it’s hard to go past Biggins’ brilliant monologue as Paul Keating, mercilessly, hilariously, and with bulls-eye accuracy, critiques each member of the current cabinet.  Biggins as Trump ignoring every protocol to embarrass Simon Burke’s surprisingly warm version of The Queen, and Biggins again, as Bob Brown, being lectured by Rachael Beck’s white board spinning Michaelia Cash.

Douglas Hansell (Barnaby Joyce) at the Tamworth Music Festival 
Beck scored also as Gladys Berejiklian happily promising “I’ll build a Light Rail to Kensington”, as a raunchy Stormy Daniels, and a somewhat bemused Melania Trump. Douglas Hansell brought the house down as Barnaby Joyce at the Tamworth Music Festival justifying his love life, and as a pajama-clad Scott Morrison desperately searching for inspiration and few will forget Simon Burke’s wicked Christopher Pyne as a Fairy-Godmother.

                                                     Photos by Brett Boardman
This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au