Sunday, December 6, 2020

THE WHARF REVUE - Good Night and Good Luck

Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Mandy Bishop, Phil Scott.

By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott.

Co-directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe.

Designed by Charles Davis. Lighting designed by Matt Cox 

Video designed by Todd Decker – Sound designed by Nate Edmondson

Canberra Theatre Centre until 9th December 2020.

Opening night performance on 1st December reviewed by Bill Stephens.

 After 20 years of writing and performing revues together it must have been tempting for the three creators of what has become an Australian theatrical institution, to decide that 2020 would be an appropriate year to make a graceful exit.

Indeed the title of this year’s revue, “Good Night and Good Luck”, and the original promotion, suggested that this revue was to be their swansong together. But like so many others faced with the predicament of the cancellation of much of its 2020 touring schedule, Covid-19 actually provided a pause for re-appraisal, leading to a decision to forego the security of the mothership, The Sydney Theatre Company, for which the revues had been created, and continue under its own management. So thankfully, “Good Night and Good Luck” will not be the last we will see of The Wharf Revue, only the last under the umbrella of The Sydney Theatre Company.

Two viruses

Jonathan Biggins - Phil Scott

Judging by the response of the first night audience to “Good Night and Good Luck”, it’s a fortuitous decision, especially as there is no evidence that the team has lost any of its ability to skewer, question, expose and ridicule pretentiousness, not only in our local politicians and public figures but also in our world leaders. So in addition to the usual local suspects, Putin, Kim Jong Un, and Bolsonaro join the International targets along with Trump, his wife Melania and solicitor Rudy Giuliani.

Of course all the favourites are there. Phil Scott’s obsequious Kevin Rudd complete with beard, Drew Forsythe’s hawk-eyed Pauline Hanson and her blissfully mangled English, and Jonathan’s Biggins joyously self-content Trump. Paul Keating misses out this year, but among the new creations are the Jobseekers, The Brigid McKenzie Musical – “How Do You Solve a Problem from Hawaii”, and an even funnier version of Fawlty Towers than the original, taking the mickey out of hotel quarantine.

There are also two riotous Covid-19 viruses (Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott) happily spreading the love, and a version of the musical “Cats” – now re-titled “Cats in the Ranks” good enough to make Andrew Lloyd Webber envious.

The Jobseekers
Drew Forsythe - Phil Scott - Mandy Bishop - Jonathan Biggins

Almost stealing the show however, holding her own against the brilliance of the three originators is Mandy Bishop, dancing up a storm in Brazil, or delighting in a succession of wickedly accurate impersonations among them Judith Durham in The Jobseekers, Jacinta Ardern doling out advice, a soulful Gladys Berejiklian, or best of all, tugging at the heartstrings as the Koala from Sofala.

 As we’ve come to expect from the Wharf Revues, the production values are first rate. Brilliant writing supported by clever direction, excellent costumes and props, exceptional video content, lighting and sound, not to mention brilliant performances by masters of the art of intimate revue, are reasons why the Wharf Revues have flourished for more than 20 years. Hopefully, under its new arrangement, we can now look forward to many more annual visits from The Wharf Revue.

                                            Production images: Brigette Honeyman

This review first published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.