Sunday, November 14, 2021

Wharf Revue: Can of Worms


Wharf Revue: Can of Worms by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott presented by Soft Tread at Canberra Theatre November 8-20, 2021

Reviewed by Frank McKone
November 14

    Writers: Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott
    Co-Directors: Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe
    Musical Director: Philip Scott
    Lighting Designer: Matt Cox
    Video and Sound Designer: David Bergman
    A Soft Tread production
    Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott

I quote Pauline Hanson, at least according to Drew Forsythe in this Can of Worms: “We must get back to our roots!”  That’s exactly what the born again Wharf Revue team have done, to great acclaim from an audience of Ken Behrens.  I’m sure that’s how Amanda Bishop’s Jacinda Adern would pronounce it.

The essence of great satire is to observe the public face of people in power, filter out the cover-up, and exaggerate the core of truth.  It’s hard work for the writers and actors; it’s fun to watch; but beyond making us laugh – in top quality performers – there’s a level of understanding.  For the audience this may be (1) enlightening as a critical judgement; (2) excruciating, even embarrassing for the politician – when we may laugh feeling as if perhaps we shouldn’t; and (3) occasionally even heartwarming, when we laugh with the character rather than at them.

In Can of Worms, Amanda Bishop achieved levels (1) and (2) in her portrayals of Michaela Cash and Jacqui Lambie and (3) for Jacinda Adern.  But perhaps the most remarkable achievement in this year’s Wharf Revue is Drew Forsythe’s levels (1), (2) and (3) all in the one characterisation of The Queen, as she approaches 70 years on the throne – the longest reigning monarch in British history.

I’ve reviewed The Wharf Revue often over the past ten years.  In recent years it was beginning to turn into a more ‘slick’ presentation, mainly in the use of multimedia and even to some degree in the acting style.  Can of Worms is straightforward, you could even say old-fashioned, satirical revue – and it works a treat.

Open the Can of Worms for yourself as it tours here in Canberra and out of our bubble to the rest of the real world.  All praise to the longstanding team of Phil Scott, Drew Forsythe, Jonathan Biggins and Amanda Bishop for striking out on their own from the Mother Wharf at the Sydney Theatre Company.  May their wharves flourish forever.