The Wharf Revue 2019: Unr-dact-d

By Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott. Sydney Theatre Company. Riverside Theatre Parramatta. September 18 – 21, 2019 and touring.

Reviewed : Sept 18, 2019

Photo : Brett Boardman

2019 has given the Wharf Revue creators – Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott – a wealth of material with which to work. Their sharp eyes and mischievous minds have crafted a revue that maintains the trademark of their brand: cutting satire interspersed with a few serious moments. Politics and parity loom large this year – and nothing is redacted!

Revue is exacting. It’s got to be fast as well as funny. Characters and costumes change constantly. Voices must be clear to stress the bite of the satire. It takes talent and timing to get it right. This year’s cast has all of this in spades!

Forsythe and musical director Andrew Worboys are back, with Simon Burke, Helen Dallimore and Lena Cruz. All have extensive experience across the theatrical spectrum – and the energy and ‘zing’ that make satire work.

As prime ministers, presidents, politicians and presenters they make a satirical journey through a year of big events and bigger blunders. Burke is Boris on Brexit; Forsythe is Hanson rationalising the Al Jazeera hoax. All lampoon Trump’s rise to power in a clever parody of Hamilton.

Sketches merge seamlessly. Burke querks as Clive Palmer explaining how his campaign gave Scomo the edge: “there’s nothing like a scare campaign to terrify the mob”. Cruz and Dallimore sweat in a sauna as Penny Wong and Jacqui Lambie. Dallimore, Forsythe and Burke are entertainingly wicked as Germaine Greer, Bob Carr and Tony Abbott. Burke excels in equally wicked impersonations of Alan Jones and Mark Latham.

Photo : Brett Boardman

Reviews of revues are hard to write. One wants to share but is loathe to give too much away. Nevertheless, watch for a superb piece of theatre where Dallimore ingeniously ‘takes on’ some of the gifted girls of the ABC.

The more serious moments? Two are special. Forsythe as a nostalgic Bob Hawke, accompanied by Warboys, uses “Thanks for the Memory” to reminisce inside the Pearly Gates. The jokes are gentle, the tribute tender. Less tender is Cruz as a cold-hearted Aung San Suu vindicating the Rohingya persecutions with an ingenious parody of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”.

Backed by Worboys’ music and the inevitable projections that set the diverse range of scenes, this “unredacted” look at politics, parity and policies is deviously devised and artfully entertaining. It’s on tour before opening at the STC in November, so check if it’s coming to somewhere near you.

Also published in Stage Whispers Magazine.