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Satire's sparkling opening falls to creeping familiarity

Date: November 05 2012


Reviewed by Jason Blake

THE WHARF REVUE
Sydney Theatre Company Wharf 2
November 2 Until November 25

THE opening 10 minutes of this year's Wharf Revue - Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire - fuses the characters of Star Wars with the personalities of the Liberal Party so neatly you wonder if you'll ever be able to separate them in your mind again.

Malcolm Skywalker struts. A prissy C3PO (the CP being Christopher Pyne) frets and totters. Darth Abbott radiates the Dark Force of negativity. Advice a Yoda-like John Howard dispenses.

Meanwhile, offstage somewhere, in a galaxy not so far, far away, lurks Gina the Hutt.

It's a brilliant start (boosted by David Bergman's booming sound), the evergreen satirical showcase at its best. But from there, you feel a kind of comic entropy creeping in as the sci-fi theme is abandoned (though not before recruit Josh Quong Tart's Tony Abbott gets a disco number) and we're flashed back to the 17th century for a laboured Inquisitional grilling of Tim Flannery.

From there, Red Wharf lurches haphazardly on in song, sketch and music theatre send-up.

A speech from the Qantas chief, Alan Joyce, in the manner of James Joyce is deftly written and performed but requires the audience to work hard for its chuckles. A Guys and Dolls take on James Packer's Barangaroo plan sparkles, then fades. Amanda Bishop shines in ''The Same Sex Marriage of Figaro'' and dons a Mary Poppins-style red coat for her staple Julia Gillard impersonation.

Red Wharf gets a performance shot in the arm with the addition of the versatile and strong-voiced Quong Tart, though regulars will miss the acerbic charisma of Jonathan Biggins, who has confined himself to direction duties this year (aside from a video appearance as Paul Keating's head, preserved in a jar).

But is it time for some new blood in the writing committee? Drew Forsythe's race call of the Peter Slipper affair doesn't amount to more than a conveyor belt of double entendres. Taking pot shots at the hunting lobby in a rewrite of Monty Python's ''Cheese Shop'' sketch (featuring Forsythe and Phil Scott) is undergrad stuff.

The show's closer, a long satire on Bob Carr's globetrotting, tries to make a joke of his professorial dourness but ends up succumbing to it.

Handsomely mounted and deftly performed as ever, but this year some of the sting is missing.

The Wharf Revue moves into STC's Wharf 1 Theatre, November 27 to December 22.

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