The revolving door of Australian politics over the past few years has been a boon for the satirists behind the Sydney Theatre Company’s annual Wharf Revue. This screening of the 15th Anniversary production is part of the trend of bringing theatre to the screen.
Jonathan Biggins, Amanda Bishop, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott excelled in their roles as leaders of the country, capturing idiosyncrasies with uncannily perfect impressions.
Throughout the night, it was remarkable to watch how the mere lift of a brow, a pout, or an inflection, could bring an entire character to life. Each portrayal was instantly recognisable. A merciless depiction of mining magnate Clive Palmer, along with a rambling then-Arts Minister George Brandis dressed in a sparkling tutu, stood out as highlights. Less successful was a skit featuring Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in a nursing home – apart from the predictable jokes, these two frail politicos evoked pity rather than laughter.
Wit was at its sharpest when the Revue took swipes at those still holding on to the reins of power and refusing to let go. Literary and musical frameworks were used to good measure. A Dylan Thomas-themed parody of Julia Gillard’s childhood, and a breathless monologue from QANTAS chief Alan Joyce (in the style of James Joyce) took the evening to satirical heights.
A depiction of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop as Les Misérables’ villainous Thenardiers was particularly cutting. But lest anyone worry that the sniping might become too partisan, Kevin Rudd received equal treatment, portrayed as the Phantom of the Opera before being literally backstabbed by Julia Gillard’s Christine.
I wondered if some of the atmosphere would be lost in this filmed version of live theatre, but it didn’t bother me at all. A good laugh, it seems, transcends the medium through which it is delivered.
Elizabeth Foster is a fiction writer who locks herself up all day in her study, but lets herself out on occasion to experience all that Sydney has to offer! You can find her writerly musings at elizabethfoster.com.au.