The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre
Extended season until Saturday 19 December 2020
2020 has been a horror year for live theatre, but a rich vein for political satire – and what’s billed as the final Wharf Revue after a 20-year run does not disappoint.
While some politicians and institutions get off fairly lightly from the withering pen of Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott, others are mocked mercilessly (and deservedly) by the cast of Biggins, Forsythe, Scott and Mandy Bishop.
I was looking forward particularly to a reprise of Biggins’ performance as ‘Paul Keating’. While that didn’t appear, a worthy replacement was Scott’s brilliant interpretation of Kevin Rudd, complete with exaggerated pauses and hand gestures.
Phillip Scott, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing him on television or the theatre, is a highly accomplished pianist and mimic. He was also superb as ‘Elton John’ in a sketch about Kim Jong-un, complete with stop-motion videos of goose-stepping North Korean military.
Indeed, without detracting from the two other members of the cast, I felt that Scott and Mandy Bishop were standouts in their various roles.
Another great performance from the very versatile Bishop was a mournful ‘Julia Gillard’ singing to the tune of Memory in an otherwise patchy sketch about the ALP based on music from Cats – though I did also like Drew Forsythe’s characterisation of party elder statesman, Barry Jones. In a separate sketch, Forsythe almost (but not quite) nailed a ‘Pauline Hanson’.
It’s difficult to keep a cracking pace in a show which runs for more than 90 minutes without a break, and to my mind, a couple of sketches, such as one based on Fawlty Towers characters, missed their mark a bit.
But great political commentary also uses shade as well as light, as was the case with The Sounds of Sirens to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s famous song, with pictures of Covid-deserted streets of New York City.
The show’s finale is a Wild West sketch featuring the current players in US politics including, of course, Jonathan Biggins’ Donald Trump. It was a great ending to a most enjoyable show.
The finale also highlighted the difficulty of keeping a show like this fresh. Covid-19 has delayed the start of the Wharf Revue’s Sydney run until mid-February 2021, by which time US politics, in particular, will have moved on.
Living Arts Canberra attended The Wharf Review at our own expense.