The Sydney Theatre Company’s The Wharf Revue. Canberra Theatre Centre - 18 Oct
Step right up; the (other) circus is back in town!
It’s hard to know what’s more entertaining: real-life Australian politics, or this latest offering from The Wharf Revue–but I’m guessing the action in Parliament doesn’t have people laughing so hard in their seats (don’t quote me in that). Presented to a jam-packed Playhouse of Canberrans, this travelling circus of political satire completely brought down the lower house.
Starring Julia Gillard impersonator extraordinaire in a role much funnier than At Home with Julia, Amanda Bishop, and Wharf Review veterans Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott, this foursome take us through the year that was ripe for picking on in Australian politics.
An incredibly sophisticated production with equally sophisticated talent, this big top variety show barely pauses for breath – with the creators banishing any possible lags throughout the performance to the backbenches. The result is an unrelenting, multimedia, whirlwind spectacle you couldn’t prise your eyes from if you tried.
Of course the embattled relationship between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd (played by Phillip Scott) gets a good shellacking early on in the show, with a Phantom of the Opera spectacular seeing Kevin kidnap Julia and hide her in the dungeons of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Equally enjoyable to watch was the vocal talents of Bishop, who seamlessly inserted her famous Julia twang into some impressive high notes.
Another highlight was the uproarious nursing home antics of former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, discussing the macroeconomics of aged care and the political tactics needed to get the ‘independents’ (those who can still use a microwave) and the ‘non-aligned’ (spinal unit) on side.
However, it wasn’t just the pollies in the firing line. The media also got its fair share of flack, with ‘Julia’ gently taunting the National Press Club and Rupert Murdoch’s empire succession getting a King Lear retake. But the most visually brilliant and theatrically captivating piece was the shadow puppet show featuring Allan Jones as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an impish commentary on the controversial radio personality.
Other featured appearances include Barry ‘get your gun’ O’Farrell and his ailing wild west state of NSW, Bob Brown and Sarah Hanson-Young looking for spiritual regeneration in outback WA and an uncanny version of Bob ‘far North Queensland is straight’ Katter to name but a few impeccable impersonations.
Importantly, Debt Defying Acts succeeds in driving home its message that Australian politics itself has a steep tradition in fun and theatrics that is to be celebrated. You only have to go to Question Time in Parliament to understand this, but if your working hours are restrictive then The Wharf Revue is a perfect evening alternative.
Debt Defying Acts is a show that really does have it all, and I’d encourage the ladies and gentleman of Canberra to roll up and catch this circus before it leaves town.
By Deborah Hawke
Debt Defying Acts is playing at the Canberra Theatre Centre until the 22nd of October.
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