Friday, October 27, 2023

Pride in Prejudice


The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice. Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Soft Tread Enterprises, The Playhouse October 24 – November 5, 2023.

Created and Written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott

Performed by Jonathan Biggins, Mandy Bishop, Drew Forsythe, David Whitney with Andrew Worboys

Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe
Musical Direction by Andrew Warboys
Lighting Design by Matt Cox, Video Design by Todd Decker
Sound and Video Systems Design by Cameron Smith Costume
Design by Hazel and Scott Fisher
Photography by Ashley de Prazer
Production photos by Vishal Pandey

Reviewed by Frank McKone
October 26

This year’s Wharf Revue, Pride in Prejudice, has left me in two minds.  

Entering the theatre, I was – and still am – scared to death about our dark future in the hands of such an array of iniquitous political figures world wide, incapable of reasonable behaviour.  

Leaving the theatre, I am full of joy to see such intelligence, humour and brilliance in performance of such finely-tuned satire that hope for our future shines forth.  

Holding both sets of feelings in mind at once is indescribable.  But knowing that there are such creative and perceptive people on stage, thoroughly appreciated by whole audiences, brightens the darkness of off-stage reality.  Satire is not escapist theatre: in laughing at these exaggerated representations of those in political power, we better understand them.

I have reviewed most of the Wharf Revues since 2010 and once again I have to say this year’s show is their best.  There’s hope indeed for humanity when Jonathan Biggins was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours, following the 2019 Sydney Theatre Awards, when the Wharf Revue team received a special award for ‘services to laughter, satire and sanity above and beyond the call of duty”.

It was in the 18th Century in the time of the French Revolution and Jane Austen novels that satirical political cartooning, led by James Gillray, set the scene for Pride in Prejudice.  Here’s Gillray’s ‘The Plum Pudding in Danger’ showing the British PM Pitt and Napoleon dividing the world.

Every scene in this Wharf Revue is an equivalent cartoon of the highest standard in character acting, singing, dancing, and musicianship – plus quite extraordinary video and sound quality.  

Among so many scenes in 105 minutes, one of the most telling is King Charles’ dream in which Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth I, and Princess Diana make his life a nightmare where he exclaims in horror “Whose dream am I in?”

Queen Elizabeth II expresses some criticisms that perhaps Charles III thought she might have had,
while Queen Elizabeth I listens in, later giving some family management advice.

Starting from arguments in the Bennet family between Elizabeth and her mother about the qualities of Mr Darcy is a brilliant opening move into a startling series of scenes from David Marr meeting an artificially intelligent Darlek who knows she has no empathy, to a powerful but incomprehensible Russian Opera, highlighting Mussorgsky’s music.

David Marr and the AI Darlek

Russian Operatic Generals


But it is the final scene, concerning The Voice, which takes us out of the satiric frame (which earlier had shown us the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton: "Will you always say No?" "Yes") into the true cutting edge where laughter is no longer possible.  Pride in Prejudice is not merely a witty title.  It means what it says.

Mr 'No'


And Mandy Bishop’s voice from Darlek to Sussan Ley as night club singer and to the top in opera is a special treat.



Playschool: Jacquie Lambie and David Pocock demonstrate
the Pillars of Democracy for children's television.