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Nov 24, 2011

REVIEW: The Wharf Revue | Wharf 1, Sydney

As I was saying to the man himself, there's no justice in the world when Tug Dumbly can't get a gig. So it's with gratitude we must meet The Wharf Revue, one of a few remaining sliv

Amanda Bishop in The Wharf Revue | Wharf 1

As I was saying to the man himself, there’s no justice in the world when Tug Dumbly can’t get a gig. So it’s with gratitude we must meet The Wharf Revue, one of a few remaining slivers of the sanity of satire, in a focus-grouped milieu that’s lost all perspective and the plot.

This year, Sydney Theatre Company’s annual institution, signifying something much more important than mere Christmas, took on the mantle of the big top, a P T Barnum ‘n’ Bailey spiegeltent, affording a sense of spectacle hitherto unknown. For a moment, it was Jimmy Sharman’s boxing tent, featuring the pugilistic talents of the cauliflower-eared Dr No, the mad monk, Mr Rabbit. But who would fight him? Swanny? Pull the other one. No, it was the sheila again: ‘Juliar’. Yes, there was Amanda Bishop again, doing the PM at least as well as Ms Gillard herself; maybe even better.

An off-his-wig KRudd was there too, a The Phantom, secreting the kidnapped Julia in the downstairs disabled toilet, at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Naturally, Alexander Downer was there, too. He appears to have been hanging around there for some time. Alan Jones made an appearance also; although, somewhat surprisingly, not in the same toilet. No, his toilet is called 2GB, buit, as we were cogently reminded, all we need do to make it and him disappear is turn it off: poof; it’s gone!

There might’ve been one (or 10) too many cheap shots at his sexuality but there was little too crit in this 90-minute exposition of comic genius. The French Revolution being called off (after all, the royal wedding was really something) due to lack of interest and political will was, for mine, the real killer sketch, but it had plenty of competition.

Hawke and Keating trying to get the numbers in a nursing home was classic, with Jonathon Biggins practically indistinguishable from PK (have they ever been seen in the same room together?) and Drew Forsythe a more than creditable silver, albeit incontinent, budgie. Phil Scott, for his part, does a surprisingly accurate, lip-smacking Kevin07, and we’re repeatedly reminded what an astonishingly good pianist he is (Scott, not the once-was mandarin).

Julia rode her horse backwards and who knew she could sing operatically? Not even Tim, I suspect. Murdoch made an appearance as a kind of Lear, while Barry O(‘Farrell) was the new marshall in town, following hot on the high heels and hair extensions of Kitty Keneally. The Rev Fred made a characteristically homophobic cameo, as did the cantankerous Clover. Bob Katter was there, his two-gallon head partly obscured by his ten-gallon hat.

Barnaby didn’t need to appear; his name alone brought tirades of laughter. Bob Brown remained true to his values, standing on a hilltop with spear in hand, while Sarah Hanson-Young tried to twist his arm on the money to be generated from the Greens’ ownership of a timber-mill. Meanwhile, Lee Rhiannon was caught short in the spinifex. But wait, there’s no spinifex in this part of the country! On the other side opf the coin, Gina and Twiggy sang an homage to the magnanimity of mining.

Yes, many prize scalps were taken; heads and other parts shrunken. I laughed myself to tears. Lest we forget, creators Biggins, Forsythe and Scott deserve Orders of Oz for services to satire. With the performance addition of Amanda Bishop (no, not the daughter of she of the concrete do), they shine even more brightly. Vicious, malicious, affectionate, stormtrooping. All this and more. The larrikin spirit is still alive, as long as these guys are.

Get yourself a big ol’ cup of pre-Xmas cheer, while stocks last! There’s the customary musical inventiveness and, this time around, a whole new set of production values and theatricality.

The details: The Wharf Revue plays Wharf 1 at the Sydney Theatre Company until December 30 and for a return season from February 8-19. Tickets on the STC website.

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