Three Nights at The Bleeding Heart

Three Nights at the Bleeding HeartIf only The Bleeding Heart were a permanent venue. A subterranean political satire bar would surely be welcome in Canberra – a city where politicians could provide it with no end of material. For now, we’ll have to be content with Shortis & Simpson’s latest production, Three Nights at the Bleeding Heart, which reminds us that there’s plenty to laugh about between the commissions and Question Time mud-slinging.

This cabaret-style show sees satirists Beauty, Rare and Girtie trying to make the most of their last three nights under the spotlight. With John Howard no longer providing fodder, satire seems to be drying up and The Bleeding Heart’s owner, Rich Bastard, is looking to sell. But Rich’s assessment of the potential for post-Howard satire couldn’t be more wrong.

When Howard does make his short appearance, the laughs are all too easy to come by. It’s taken a little more creativity to create caricatures of the new government and their opposition, and the result is all the more enjoyable for it. Each of the show’s four actors has the chance to don the Rudd glasses as well as show off their best impressions of Wayne Swan, Brendan Nelson and Therese Rein (to name a few). Queenie van de Zandt is particularly fun to watch, capturing every Rudd quirk from the concerned frown to that incessant lip-licking. She also nails a spotlight-hungry Julia Gillard, taking the assumptions about her wish to become the first female PM into hilariously over-the-top territory.

The actors fill so many roles that it’s easy to forget there are only ever four people on stage. Ian Blake’s baritone and multi-instrumental prowess enhance the many musical numbers, and his cheeky moments as Brendan Nelson were some of the most giggle-worthy. Moya Simpson is as comfortable playing a shimmying Therese Rein as she is lamenting the closure of her beloved venue, and she knows how to entertain at both extremes. John Shortis’ contemptible Rich Bastard provides a bit of darkness in amongst all the humour, and his turn as Rudd displays some truly toe-curling choreography.

Any opening night jitters were near-impossible to spot, despite the simultaneous challenges of singing on key, dancing in time and making sure the jokes hit their mark. The set and lighting designers have made clever use of the space, allowing us to move easily between backstage dramas and on-stage action. A couple of jokes were lost in sound or microphone glitches, but these were only occasional.

It’s a sign of quality satire when there are jokes for everyone from serial news-avoiders to political aficionados. Three Nights at The Bleeding Heart achieves this balance while also managing to lampoon both sides of the political divide. The company is clearly adaptable too, with a number of the gags up-to-date with this week’s political shenanigans. While a few of the jokes probably could have been taken further, and others cut back a touch, the overall effect was solid, producing a steady stream of chuckles and a few guffaws. By the end of the show it was clear that there’s still plenty of political ridiculousness to fuel many more nights at The Bleeding Heart. It’s a long shot, but I hope Rudd, Nelson and the gang get along to a Shortis & Simpson production at some point – they might just enjoy themselves.  

Three Nights at the Bleeding Heart

Venue: The Street Theatre | Cnr Childers St & University Ave, Canberra City West
Dates: June 19 - 28

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