The Wharf Revue 2018: Déjà Revue. Written and created by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe. Sydney Theatre Company. The Playhouse. Canberra Theatre Centre. Until November 3. canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 62752700.
A new-look Wharf Revue swept into Canberra on Tuesday night with the cyclonic force of supercharged political satire, hard-hitting, hilariously irreverent and sparkling brighter than a Cartier collection of newly cut diamonds.
Written by Wharf Revue veterans Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe, Déjà Revue reveals the phenomenal talents of founding stalwart Biggins and Rachael Beck, Simon Burke (filling in for a hospitalised Forsythe) and Douglas Hansell as well as musical director Andrew Worboys.
Together they make up the A-team of Australian satire, slick sharp and sassy, shooting quick-witted quips from the lips of puffed-up, preening politicians. No-one escapes the barbed jibes of Biggins’s opening bullying warm-up in courtly French dress against designer Charles Davis’s Versailles façade before the show opens with a pantomime version of Cinderella with Beck as Principal Boy Malcolm, Ugly Sisters Eric Abetz (Burke) and Kevin Andrews (Hansell) with Biggins as the hysterically comical horrid stepmother, Tony Abbott. Hansell’s later appearance as Prince Charmless, the wooden potato head Peter Dutton, is another true scene stealer.
Scene-stealing is par for the course in this ribald revue. There is Beck’s whiteboard-spinning Michaelia Cash and a thoroughly irreverent spoof on the Christian Right in an adaptation of the popular satirical musical, The Book of Mormon.
Hansell’s Barnaby Joyce at the Tamworth Writers Festival does little to enhance the former deputy prime minister’s reputation and Beck’s erotically seductive Stormy Daniels plays out Trump’s bête noire.
Side-splitting satire took on a more revered tone in Biggins’s brilliantly observed and perfectly pitched impersonation of the master of the cutting retort, Paul Keating. It is worth a ticket alone to see Australia’s master of mockery have an audience bent double in fits of laughter at Keating’s dry observations.
The Wharf Revue 2018 takes a scalpel to folly. It peels aside the superficial layer to reveal a more troubling underbelly, the caravan of fools. Trump (Biggins) and Berlusconi (Worboys) bathe in their narcissism. Melania Trump (Beck) strikes a solitary, yet privately assertive pose to the plaintive tune of Lili Marlene on Worboys’ accordion. It is the meeting between Trump and Queen Elizabeth (Burke) and their contrasting duet that echoes the true nature of satire.
Déjà Revue skirts to a large extent the rocky terrain of recent political turmoil. With fresh faces in the team, Biggins and Forsythe take a retrospective glimpse at the absurdities that have scarred the nation’s political landscape and continue to do so.
This year’s Wharf Revue lacks none of the laughter, talent or vitality of earlier creations, but Biggins’s utterance of Georg Hegel’s “What we learn from history is that we never learn from history” lends this year’s revue a more thought-provoking aspect. If you have never been to a Wharf Revue before, this year’s offering is not to be missed.