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History lessons were never like this

Date

Ron Cerabona

Amanda Bishop plays Julia Poppins in a scene from Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire.

Amanda Bishop plays Julia Poppins in a scene from Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Canberra is the ''spiritual home'' of The Wharf Revue, co-writer and performer Drew Forsythe said yesterday.

''It's where all our clowns come from.''

He was speaking hours before the long-running Sydney satirical company's latest offering, Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire, had its first ACT performance at The Playhouse.

Amanda Bishop plays Julia Poppins in Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire.

Amanda Bishop plays Julia Poppins in Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The framing story this time is that the Earth has exploded - ''the carbon tax has brought it all down'' - and the sole survivors are Forsythe and his Wharf Revue colleagues Phillip Scott (who wrote the show with Forsythe and Jonathan Biggins), Amanda Bishop and newcomer Josh Quong Tart (Home and Away).

Thus begins a trip of historical, political and satirical proportions, going right back to 1616 and the persecution of Galileo for heresy before jumping to his modern-day counterpart, Australian Climate Commission Chief Commissioner Tim Flannery copping the flak from ''Cardinal Bolt and Sister Mirabella''.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Mary Poppins garb reveals things are far from practically perfect with a lament sung to the tune of A Spoonful of Sugar, complete with comments from her parrot-handled umbrella (no prizes for guessing which Sydney radio personality that represents), and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce makes a speech to shareholders in the manner of his namesake, Irish author James Joyce, in full stream-of-consciousness Finnegans Wake mode.

''It's quite a long and interesting piece that goes over well,'' Forsythe said. ''People pick up all the allusions.''

And there's much more, including the various travails of the former speaker in The Peter Slipper Handicap, a horse race with aptly named entries (''Misogynist Texts could be an entry in the Caulfield Cup, couldn't it?'' Forsythe said) and Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr travelling around the world, encountering US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (''She puts him in his place'') and British Prime Minister David Cameron, among others, and seeking advice on the Middle East from the legendary Lawrence of Arabia. There's even a Star Wars segment with Malcolm Skywalker refusing to join the Dark Side even though his colleagues have joined the forces of Darth Abbott.

The show is now in its sixth week of touring.

Forsythe said the writers tried to anticipate where events in politics were heading to keep things topical but admitted that sometimes real life was hard to top for ludicrousness.

Still, they keep on plugging away, entertaining audiences by poking fun at the faults and foibles of politicians and other prominent people. Forsythe said he was glad to welcome new blood periodically, giving regular performers a break and injecting new energy into the shows.

''It'd be nice to franchise it out with other people in other places.''

Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire began last night at The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, and is on until Saturday at 8pm with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets $50-$59. Bookings: 6275 2700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au

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