Photos - Tony McKendrick
There's no doubt this is a very entertaining show; especially if silly dancing, men in drag and wacky musical stylings float your boat. It's fun, it's out there, it's (sort of) topical. Most significantly, it's been executed with great gusto and joie de vivre by a talented ensemble of local musical theatre favourites.
Okay, so it's not a particularly female-friendly piece of theatre - even Chezza Kernot is played by a man (Kristian Byrne, a femme fatale in a red dress) but, hey, that's politics of the 1990s. The Keatingettes, backing singers, add a lot musically and in terms of energy. Nicole Simms, Charlea Edwards and Lucy Devine are a glamorous trio.
But the star of the show, of course, is PK himself, here capably performed by Scott Farrow. It has to be said he doesn't do much of a PK impression, except in the hilarious reggae dance number "Ruler Of The Land", but that's not a big deal. He has the Keating attitude, if not every mannerism.
Smarming and charming his way around the stage in his Italian suit, crooning sexily or belting out arrogantly as the occasion demands, he's a charismatic figure. Farrow really impresses; equally at home with camp, over the top numbers and with more reflective ones ("The Light On The Hill").
Chris Hamley is wildly entertaining as both Bob Hawke and John Howard who, according to Keating!, have a lot in common; such as their penchant for laying on the "Aussie" with a trowel. He's good as Hawke, but it's as Howard he really excels. Howard in his silly green and gold tracksuit, marching proudly around the stage like a meglomaniac school boy: it's an image that resonates.
The whole ensemble does a great job; and I really enjoyed Robert Pill as a rather sinister Gareth Evans. The band, led by Scott Cashion, is fantastic.
Having not seen Keating! before, I was a little surprised to discover that it is actually a pretty lightweight piece: cabaret really, as opposed to a fully fledged musical. There are lots of amusing songs in various styles (from soul to ska). There's a bucket load of irreverence - and it's good to see that ire is not reserved for Liberal Party members, Labor figures get quite a lambasting as well (although without the same level of vitriol).
But, in the end, Keating! doesn't serve up anything surprising in terms of analysis of the Keating era or Keating the man. We get a pretty basic discussion of politics and what it's like to be a player - the key theme is grasping power, holding it, losing it - and not much more than that.
Don't expect too much ideas-wise and you'll have a fine time with this simply staged production. Have a fun night at the theatre and laugh at politics and, if you're that way inclined, shed a tear or two for the passion that was PK the PM.
Old Nick Company Inc presents
Music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto
Directed by Craig Wellington
Venue: Theatre Royal, Hobart
Dates: March - 3-6, 2010
Bookings: www.theatreroyal.com.au | 03 6233 2299