When the jacarandas are in bloom, the weather has turned, and the festive season is bearing down upon us – it’s that time again, time for the Wharf Revue. At least in Sydney, that is. This year’s revue, Deja Revue opened in Parramatta in September, travelling to the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Canberra before coming to the Roslyn Packer Theatre for its current run.
Creator Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe are in fine form again this year. Well, there is so much material for them. It’s much the same each year. We seem to always have a new PM, and a coup behind him or her. It’s a rich seam of comedy to mine.This year has seen them work extra hard to update last year’s political satire about the deposing of Malcolm Turnbull – which of course came true just a few months ago in August. Biggins even managed to get in a quip about suspending belief by asking, who would have thought that Kerryn Phelps could win the seat of Wentworth?
This year’s revue begins with the pantomime of Cinderella, with Malcolm played creatively by Rachael Beck and portrayed as “poor little me” who has everything but the top job. We are transported back in time to see how the current situation came to pass through actions in the past. He is taunted by his ugly step sisters Kevina Andrews and Erica Abetz, and evil stepmother the Abbess. They will never let him go to the ball and meet the Prince Charmless (not a spoiler alert to say it’s Peter Dutton – who else could it be??) who could take him to the top. Played by Douglas Hansell, Dutton is humorous for his humourlessness – his character gives a fine show as the devil with whom Malcolm makes his deal for the top job – the old Mephistophelean tale.
Of course ScoMo is featured. He is dressed in PJs, comfy slippers, and his man of the people baseball cap. There’s a nice line about him taking out the bus for his tour but flying in to meet it wearing Qantas pyjamas. Michaelia Cash is loud, brash, and larger than life thanks to Beck.
My highlights this year included a brilliant monologue by Biggins as the Hon PJ Keating. He’s played Keating many times before and has all his nuances perfectly down pat. His monologue of the current state of politics could truly have been written by the elder statesman himself – and even then he might not be quite as sharp. Biggins is currently preparing a one-man Keating show to tour in 2019. I’ll certainly be buying a ticket.
Biggins also shines as Bob Brown, another character he has played before. This year his dance as Brown to “Get Your Green On” is priceless. The revue is worth seeing for his hip gyrations alone. Beck joins him in the dance as Sarah Hanson-Young but it’s hard to take your eyes off Biggins’s hips.
Forsyth is a quick study in costume and wig changes, and with this year’s global line up of characters – his accents. He does a fine Silvio Berlusconi singing an Italian tenor number, then becomes “leader for life” Vladimir Putin and, of course, his Queen Elizabeth is perfect. Then it’s back to his stride with Pauline Hanson. His malaprops as Hanson land wonderfully.
Keyboard player and actor Andrew Worboys, standing in for the talented Phil Scott, brought with him some of his musical theatre flourishes which are very entertaining, adding a fresh sound to Deja Revue.
The Book of Cormann was another delight, cleverly conceived and delivered. And the Gladys Berejiklian song provided the tap dance I want to see in any musical offering.
It was clear that the first night Sydney audience was filled with fans. The laugher around the auditorium was natural and constant with every skit well received. The cast’s ability to deliver well, year-on-year and through the changing political landscape is quite a feat.
Fans of the Wharf Revue will not be disappointed and for newcomers to the Revue this is a good one to start with.
Next year we’ll have an election and a likely change in government but I think, at least for the Revue purposes, the Libs make for better comedy. So don’t miss possibly your last chance to see them in the star roles for at least another three years.