Left - Amanda Bishop, Drew Forsythe & Jonathan Biggins. Cover - Jonathan Biggins & Phillip Scott. Photos - Tracey Schramm
Revue style theatre is an odd beast. Part satire, part music hall, part sketch style comedy, revues are in essence ephemeral. Something hysterically funny one year or one month can become dangerously cheap and passé the next. At their best they are full blooded cheeky romps through a tapestry of loosely woven events usually of a political nature. At their worst they are overly self referential, full of in jokes and punch lines usually involving engineering students getting their daks off. Waiting for Garnaut is the former - a roaring hot air blast of acrid wit, unapologetic characterizations and droll tunes all laced with brazen irreverence that both titillates and harangues any lurking hypocrisies an audience might be harboring.
Biggins, Forsythe, Scott et al have hit pay dirt with Waiting for Garnaut. The opening gag, featuring Lucky and Pozzo like characters sitting around on empty oil cans waiting for not much more than a cue for a song prepares the audience for the short sharp dialogue that follows as each skit blends seamlessly into the next. Everyone will have particular favourites - Dr Iemma and Nurse Reba Meagher operating on the lifeless state of NSW, Brendan Nelson stripped bare in a medley of Bob Dylan songs under the Zombies titled tune, I’m Not There, the dilemmas of Sister Kevin, Sister Julia and the wise counsel of Mother Paul or the lesser but equally funny trials of the NZ Swim Team.
Not all of the show is comfortable, however. The tribulations of the Harare Gospel Choir, summarily executed as they sing about Mugabe is distinctly cringe worthy. White Australian comedians singing about a black dictator - even Mugabe - is kinda like Germans taking the piss out of the Holocaust - there is a serious lack of moral authority on the topic. At least they didn’t black up their faces. In fairness, the pointy end of satire such as this serves to reflect the collective condition of our frayed social nerve endings; Australia is a racist country with a penchant for double standards, deviously exposed by the choir members sighing “worthy” and “meaningful” as they lie dying on stage - a wicked meta commentary about the piece. You don’t want to laugh but they force it out of you.
Welcome also to see the proverbial bagged out of Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine and Keith Windshuttle as, in fabulous costumes, (Paul Warren) they slobber through a camp period piece complaining how the colony has gone to the dogs since Governor Howard was recalled. The finale sees a return to the Waiting for Garnaut theme as the crew sing a nihilistic ditty about how we are all going to die tomorrow, one day - a kind of ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ number. This is a show that has a brief but potent shelf life. Its significance lies in the fact that it is the first major satirical review of the Rudd government and it reverberates with the tenor of the times. See it. If you care at all about public dialogue.
Sydney Theatre Company presents
The Wharf Revue
Waiting For Garnaut
Written & Created By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe & Phillip Scott
Venue: Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company, Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Season: 5 August – 31 August
Plays: Tuesday at 6.30pm, Wednesday – Friday at 8pm, Saturday 5pm & 8.30pm, Sunday at 5pm
Matinee: Wednesday at 1pm
Price: $48 / $42 concessions & STC Subscribers
Bookings: (02) 9250 1777 / sydneytheatre.com.au