The Wharf Revue 2012 - Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire

The Wharf Revue 2012 - Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire
By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott. Sydney Theatre Company. Wharf 2 Theatre. November 1 - December 22, 2012.

Those clever writers from the Wharf Review are in fine form.

First there was a spoon full of sugar for Julia: “With my negotiating skills I passed an awful lot of bills in a parliament that teeters on the edge, but no-one ever mentioned those. They just ridicule my nose, my voice, my hair, my girlish derriere.”

Earlier Tony Abbott came on to sing a famous pop anthem for feminists: “Once I was a monk, I was sanctified. Then testosterone kicked in I let my calling slide. And I fought so many fights. Yes Boxing made me strong. Yet all along, I never thought I could be wrong…. I will survive.”

Missing on stage was Jonathan Biggins – who had a sabbatical this year – but he still appeared by video in a froth and bubble Paul Keating style.

Next year is the energetic pianist Phil Scott’s turn to have a year off. I am told they may have to cast two to fill in for him.

Original writer and performer Drew Forsythe was also in fine form.  Top marks for Bob Carr’s rendition of Camelot which became I read a lot….and Malcolm Turnbull as the charming Luke Skywalker who is always the nicest guest on Q and A even though “endless riches I am blessed.”

It wasn’t always cheesy. Asylum seekers from Afghanistan were also a target singing, “Sit down we’re rockin the boat.”

Amanda Bishop made our jaws drop with her singing and Josh Quong Tart making his Wharf Review debut was full of beans.

It was a very slick night.

David Spicer.

John P. Harvey's review of the Canberra season

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre, 23–27 October 2012

Bravo! The 2012 Wharf Revue is the cleverest galactic ride you're likely to hitch in this lifetime. I walked in expecting clever conversation and sketches.  Sketches certainly appeared: no merely Pythonesque treatments of the foibles of the day, though, they openly expressed disdain, amusement, and contempt in ways that were as irresistible as they were imaginative.  They so well pinpointed present-day political and social follies that they incidentally caught me up on much of the news I've missed in recent weeks.

The elements of greatest surprise throughout, though, were the elegance of language (nicely balanced with a few choice intensifiers and poisonous invectives); the superb satirical lyrics set to well-known musical numbers; the richness of the show's interwoven references to politics, culture, and history; and the accomplished musicianship of its cast, all four members of which performed musical director Phillip Scott's stunning but difficult arrangements masterfully and, apparently, easily.

Rewritten annually, this year's Wharf Revue embedded in songs and sketches political events showing it to be of recent writing.  You'd think the cast had been performing it for months, so well does it manage complex dialogues, stage movements, and, sometimes, singing quartets.

And this is to say nothing of the wonderful stage work, costuming, and lighting and the perfect sound supporting it all.

Treat yourself.  You won't regret it.

Images: (from top) Amanda Bishop and Josh Quong Tart; Josh Quong Tart and Phillip Scott & Amanda Bishopin STC’s The Wharf Revue 2012 – Red Wharf: Beyond the Rings of Satire. Photographer: Tracey Schramm. 

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