The Wharf Revue: Looking for Albanese

The Wharf Revue: Looking for Albanese
By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, and Phillip Scott. Seymour Centre, Sydney. 17 November – 23 December, 2022

It’s a new dawn, a new day, and a new captain at the helm of the ship of state. And what a state we’re in!

That’s how it’s advertised – and that’s what it’s all about! But what the advertising doesn’t suggest is that there’s a new sang froid to the show. It’s cleverer. Sharper. Even more perspicacious.

Don’t get me wrong! All the highlights are there: the cutting satire, the crafty impersonations, the witty parodies, the music, the choreography, the wicked pace. But there’s something more.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. After all there’s a lot to cram into a revue about 2022 apart from the new crew in Parliament House. There’s the world economy, the war in Ukraine, climate change, a few tyrants, a continuing pandemic … and a shift in values that these astute creatives have ingeniously infused into their writing.

They open as Sideshow Alley clowns, fixed together, heads turning, singing Happy Days! Then come The Greens! Think green-skivvied Wiggles – with Amanda Bishop sporting Emma Wiggle’s bunches and bows – and sing some witty parodies including “Toot Toot Electric Car”!

And what of the title Looking for Albanese? He pops up all over the place, played by all performers and recognised by his new, black glasses! Phil Scott introduces him as Albo Baggins climbing The Mountain of Debt. Later Amanda Bishop plays him as Albo in Wonderland. Drew Forsythe finds him in an aged care facility after serving 6 terms as PM! Clever! Different! How do they come up with these new twists?

Pollies and policies appear intertwined in longer sketches – or in individual spots, all of which are interspersed with excerpts from interviews with “losers” in a spoof on the ABC’s program “You Can’t Ask That”.

Jonathan Biggins almost brings down the house as a very aggressive, hard-ass Peta Credlin. Scott hosts a last party at Number 10 as Boris Johnson. Biggins returns in a new, and even more kingly role!

Bishop appears and re-appears! She recites a Dylan Thomas-style dissertation as Katie Gallagher explaining the state of federal finances, becomes Allegra Spender – a ‘Real Contender’ ousting “Dave Sharma, Rose Bay farmer” … and later takes a ‘hip’ Jacqui Lambie to the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

In Wonderland, Albo goes to the Mad Catter’s Tea Party, where he meets not only Bob, but a yellow-clad Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer) – and the Queen of Hearts (Pauline Hanson) who flutters her eyelashes amid a host of malapropisms! The new Cabinet gets together in a skilfully written parody on West Side Story – and the three ex Labor PMs meet at a party Conference! Biggins (Keating), Scott (Rudd) and Bishop (Gillard) have perfected these roles and it was delightful to see them together in this very clever skit.

The Revue always comes up with an item that is just a little different, just a little deeper, often quite hard-hitting. This year that item is especially poignant. On a darkened stage, with Scott at the piano and Biggins on guitar, Forsythe pays tribute to those lost or languishing in the aftermath of Australia’s Longest War. Sung to the haunting tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky, it is a beautiful piece of theatre, breaking the satirical vibe for a few thoughtful, touching moments.

These four doyens of the Australian theatre scene never cease to amaze with their ideas, their quirky insights, their eclectic talents. They can write, compose, act, dance and sing. You Can’t Ask That of many performers!

If you haven’t seen a Wharf Revue before, start with this one! You won’t be disappointed … quite the opposite!

Carol Wimmer

Photographer: Vishal Pandey.


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