Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Wharf Revue 2022


The Wharf Revue 2022: Looking for Albanese.  Presented by Soft Tread Enterprises and Canberra Theatre Centre, at The Playhouse October 25 – November 5, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening Night

Writers: Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Philip Scott
Co-Directors: Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe
Musical Director: Philip Scott
Lighting Designer: Matt Cox
Video Designer: Todd Abbott
Costume Designers: Hazel and Scott Fisher
Photos by Vishal Pandey

 Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott

 Keeping the bastards honest since 2000.

As Covid and fear of impending Alzheimer’s has glued me to crosswords, one answer stands out time after time. Éclat.  The clue?  The brilliance of success.

Nothing else describes better this year’s Wharf Revue.  All the scenes from the open-mouthed clowns to King Charles III, from Albo in Wonderland (Queensland!) to when he faces Death in a nursing home in 2050 (after 6 terms, passing on the Prime Ministership to Jacqui Lambie) make up a crossword full of Éclats.  

But there is one very special scene where the brilliance of satire is set aside.  Channeling Fred Smith and his singing of Lee Kernaghan’s song Dust of Uruzgan, a returned soldier sings of Australia’s longest war, and simply asks the question “Why?”.  The dazzling wit of all the other scenes becomes highlighted in the contrast of their brilliance against the dark depth of feeling in that quietly sung question.  Our critical satirical laughter at politics needs the silence of the reality of the decision to go to war.  

Go to for the words of Dust of Oruzgan, including
Yeah, there's nothing about the province, that's remotely fair or just
But worse than the corruption is the endless bloody dust

and seek out Fred Smith’s CD.

That this amazingly skilled team could provide us with both the laughter and the silence is a measure of the value and importance of their work.  We need the Wharf Revue.  

We need to see Jacqui Lambie at her downright best (and join her Network); Katy Gallagher, the determined woman in charge of finance (even though the charming Chalmers gets the credit); the three previous Labor PMs, Julia, Paul and Kevin, enjoying a pleasant moment together; and the Wharf’s famous Pauline whose use of language this year even more subtly undermines her intentions than usual; – among a plethora of extraordinary political characterisations/assassinations.

Watching The Wharf Revue 2022 is literally exciting – both of our imaginations and our responses from unstoppable laughter to that quiet recognition of the truth.  Two decades of writing have honed the team’s scripting skills to a fine point, matched – this year especially by the range and depth of characterisation, quality of voice and movement by Amanda Bishop – in their musicianship, rapid-change costuming, makeup and hairdos.  All backed on screen by the Losers answering You Can’t Ask That questions – like John Howard unable to remember who was the longest serving Prime Minister!  I almost felt sad for him, recognising the onset of Alzheimer’s.

And do they find Albanese?   Yes, I think they do.  Pointed satire can be destructive, but this year’s Wharf Revue is a productive, even positive review of our world of politics – except of the Supreme Court of the United States, in a scene which I hope will be seen on Youtube by Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  Their response might be of the ‘Stop Laughing – This is Serious’ kind, though.

Don’t miss The Wharf Revue 2022.  

Julia Gillard, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd
in The Wharf Revue 2022

Jackie Lambie shirt-fronts the real Barnaby Joyce
Amanda Bishop in The Wharf Revue 2022

Pauline Hanson as the Red Queen of Hearts in Wonderland (Queensland)
Drew Forsythe in The Wharf Revue 2022

Albo meets the United Australia Party in Wonderland (Queensland)
in the Wharf Revue 2022

The cast of clowns
in The Wharf Revue 2022