Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Wharf Revue- Around the Rings of Satire


Every Wharf Revue is brilliant.  The only distinction that can be made in respect of the level of genius from year to year is in how long it takes me to turn to my companion and say that I already want to come back and see it again.  Last year it was only about ten minutes in, as the voices of Julia Gillard and a masked Kevin Rudd soared through an Andrew Lloyd Webber pastiche ("Rudd Never Dies"!).  This year it was only a few minutes longer, when Josh Quong Tart (replacing auteur and regular Jonathan Biggins in the cast) tore off his Lord Vader Helmet to reveal an uncannily convincing impersonation of Tony Abbott singing "I Will Survive".

Honestly, this show is funny and clever on so many levels it warrants several viewings just to be sure you've got it all.  Last year we were lucky: the ABC broadcast a recording of Debt-Defying Acts (ooh, still available on iView?!) a couple of times around Christmas, and I deeply hope they'll do the same for this one.  There is a quite staggering sketch written by Drew Forsythe and performed by Josh Quong Tart, which is Alan Joyce addressing Qantas shareholders as James Joyce - the sheer cleverness of it was, I swear, physically exhilerating.  And I could probably see that sketch three more times without fully grasping everything that was in it.

Another joy of the Wharf Revue is the musical direction by the marvellous Philip Scott - there's some recorded music, but most is played by Scott himself on the keyboard (here disguised as a the console of a spaceship).  There's huge fun to be had picking out the sources of the musical numbers - though the extended sequences from Guys & Dolls (concerning James Packer's deal with the NSW government for a casino at Barangaroo) and Mary Poppins were a doddle. In the latter, Julia Gillard (played again by the extraordinary, and serendipitously named, Amanda Bishop) and Bill Shorten (Tart again) look for ways to get traction with the punters; it's funny because it's trooooooooo!!

A harder sell was a sketch set in a gun shop - call it an unspoiler alert, but if you don't recognise this as a parody of the Monty Python "Cheese Shop" sketch right at the start, you're not going to find it nearly as funny as it should be.  And because the show launched six weeks ago and has been touring regional NSW, it's missed some opportunities offered by recent parliamentary shenanigans; though Drew Forsythe has shoehorned in a very funny (and slightly breathtaking) race call of the Golden (Peter) Slipper Stakes.

With Jonathan Biggins' Australia Day commitments limiting his Wharf Revue involvement to a video of Paul Keating's head in a jar, his usual collaborators Scott and Forsythe have done him proud with the addition of Josh Quong Tart, who like returning guest Amanda Bishop, sings beautifully, dances fabulously, and can impersonate pretty much anyone. Bishop didn't get as much star material as last year, but does get to show off a bravura soprano in "The Gay Marriage of Figaro".

There are still performances left on Friday and Saturday night plus a Saturday matinee. So you have three more chances to see it. Or, as I prefer to think of it, a chance to see it three more times. Do it! Laugh til you cry! Thank me later!

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