I honestly cannot remember when I last laughed so hard. My face muscles ache from the unfamiliar exercise. I have a stitch in my side. My palms are pulsating from over-aggressive clapping. And it seems I am not the only one. As the theatre drains, I hear all around me the raving reviews of audience members, fellow laughers and clappers, who have obviously enjoyed the last ninety minutes as much as I have.
The Wharf Revue, presented by The Sydney Theatre Company, is now celebrating its’15th year. As each of its’ predecessors, the current incarnation is a series of political satire sketches done in a tongue-in-cheek musical theatre style. Equally art and comedy, it is the half-cast spawn of the unlikely marriage of high-brow intellectualism and on-the-pulse pop culture.
Nothing is sacred. Nobody is immune. In true Australian style, we laugh at all our leaders, from Hawke through to Abbott, on both sides of politics, as well as big business and the media too. No topic is too hot and no news event too recent to be included.
The intimate quartet of performers, three of whom double as writers and creators of the material, take on multiple roles, swapping accents as frequently as costumes. The talent of these four individuals is truly awesome. With just the expression on their face, the tune of their voice, their posture or their walk, they capture a character unmistakably. According to Phillip Scott, “It is about observing tiny details and isolating idiosyncrasies. Everyone’s got them. Most of the time you don’t even notice them, until someone crystallises it into a parody or caricature. But once you see or hear it you immediately recognise it.”
Musically speaking, the impeccable and charismatic pianistic skill of Phillip Scott and the rich, powerful baritone of Drew Forsythe are stand-outs for me, but Jonathan Biggins and Amanda Bishop both shine as well. There is no weak link in this tight group. No solo performance drags and no harmony clashes.
The Wharf Revue can be understood at various levels. There is artistic intertextually and intelligent jokes sufficient to satisfy even the most hawty-tawty of theatre goers, and yet at the same time, there are enough good gags to get the plebs rolling in the aisles. Even for those who are politically illiterate, or ignorant of Australian news, there is entertainment galore.
The Wharf Revue is showing at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from 9-12 September, at the Canberra Theatre Centre from 15-26 September, and at the Glen Street Theatre, Belrose, from 7-17 October.
– Alicia Tripp
Alicia is a seasoned arts and music journalist, as the former arts and music writer for the ABC Limelight magazine and State of the Arts.