It could have been a disastrous opening night for Pennies from Kevin by Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue. Leading lady Virginia Gay had been struck down with illness and had to be replaced at the last minute with fly-in Amanda Bishop. The video equipment didn’t seem to be working for the first 20 minutes, the performers forgot the dance steps for one of the first songs and other sketches also felt slightly under rehearsed. But you know what? All of that didn’t matter one whit to the clapping, cheering, cackling audience around me.
Covering everything from the GFC to the canonisation of Mary McKillop (it’s all down to the Pope’s unorthodox sexual appetite and some blackmail on Amanda Vanstone’s part apparently) to what would happen if the democrats committed mass suicide and ended up in heaven (a sketch that includes grown men in angel wings, nighties, socks and sandals), Pennies is a pun-filled, sex-and-poo-joke, all-singing, some-dancing extravaganza that aims to entertain, slightly offend and have you laughing at Australian politics more than you normally would in real life.
I have to admit, politics isn’t really my cup of tea (or tay-uhh as the Julia Gillard of one sketch would drawl), so a lot of the jokes went right over my head. But judging by the response of those sitting around me, the Wharf Theatre Revue has their schtick spot on. Even I, with my limited knowledge, could see just how good the Kevin Rudd impersonation was in "Kevin Potter and the Lower Chamber of Secrets". And while I wouldn’t know Bob Brown if he cornered me in a dark alley to talk about his policies, I absolutely loved Jonathon Biggins’ impersonation of him in “Canberra’s Got Talent”, droning “Tell it to Ya” to the tune of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelejuah”.
Written and created by Biggins and fellow performers Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott (who does the aforementioned Rudd impersonation), Pennies from Kevin includes some witty sketches and songs, and the musical talent of the whole ensemble is admirable. They sing beautifully, Scott plays the piano like a emaster and at one point the gentleman even pick up trombones and tubas for the “Miners in a Brass Band” sketch. Sure, they don’t play them that well, but they’re having a bloody good go.
Amanda Bishop’s brave undertaking of an entire role in one day has to be applauded as well. The fact that she worked from the script for many sketches really didn’t diminish her on-stage charisma, and her energy and singing talent meant she shone amongst the male performers.
As the cast reached the final chorus, a few members of the audience spontaneously rose to their feet, as others whooped it up with delight. And while I wasn’t one of them, I could still see why this audience absolutely loved Pennies from Kevin.
The Wharf Revue
Pennies from Kevin
by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe & Phillip Scott
Venue: QUT Gardens Theatre, 2 George Street, Brisbane (next to City Botanic Gardens)
Dates/Times: Thursday 4 March 8pm | Friday 5 March 2pm (matinee) and 8pm
Tickets: $24 - $38, $4 discount for matinee
Bookings: 07 3138 4455 | www.gardenstheatre.qut.com
This tour is presented by the Sydney Theatre Company