Created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, and Phillip Scott
Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott and Mandy Bishop
Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Soft Tread Enterprises
Canberra Theatre to 20 November
Reviewed by Len Power 9 November 2021
With the end of Canberra’s lockdown at last, ‘The Wharf Revue: Can Of Worms’ is the Canberra Theatre Centre’s first re-opening presentation.
Although previously presented annually by the Sydney Theatre Company, this new show is produced by Soft Tread Enterprises. It’s the same tried and true format of sketches which satirise current political issues hand in hand with witty songs and amusing character assassinations.
At the start of the show, the cast make it clear that this is a more intimate show focussing on the content and characters rather than offering dazzling production values. There was still the careful attention to detail in the costume designs by Phillip Scott and Hazel Fisher to add credibility to the characterisations.
Regular performers Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott and Mandy Bishop were in fine form and the ninety minute show moved at a cracking pace from one sketch to another. Expertly produced video sequences by David Bergman added variety and kept the action moving while cast members changed for their next appearance.
Amongst the highlights of the show was a take-off of the opening number of the musical, ‘Come From Away’, renamed ‘Go Far Away’, fashioned as a damning comment on Australia’s refugee policy. Composer, Phillip Scott, also produced other clever tunes again this year. His writing and performing of ‘ScoMo’, cleverly using the calypso ‘Banana Boat Song’, was especially smart and hilarious.
Drew Forsythe was a chilling Rupert Murdoch in conversation with Jonathan Biggins’ gangsterish Mephistopheles and his warm and dizzy President Joe Biden was a new delight. His turn as the Queen seemed unusually affectionate until the clever sting at the end of the sketch and it wouldn’t be The Wharf Revue without his devastating Pauline Hanson. He does Ms. Hanson better than she does!
Mandy Bishop was in fine voice for her songs and gave sharply etched caricatures of Gladys Berejiklian, Michaelia Cash and Jacqui Lambie. Phillip Scott was a smarmy Kevin Rudd and dim John Howard and Jonathan Biggins got further wicked mileage out of Donald Trump amongst other clever characterisations.
As usual in a revue, some sketches work better than others. Some of the longer ones sagged, especially the final sketch, a ‘Wizard Of Oz’ parody on the spiralling cost of Australian homes. While most of the character satire in the show is harmless fun, some of the content of the Jacqui Lambie sketch was bordering on cruel, producing what sounded like shocked murmurs from the audience.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’, ‘Arts About’ and ‘Arts Starter’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.