Musical direction by Phillip Scott
Sydney Theatre Company
Corner of Market and Church Streets, Parramatta
Season: 31 August – 3 September (Then touring to Wollongong, Canberra and Belrose, with a season at STC in October-December)
The Wharf Revue is a Sydney Theatre Company institution, whipping out an annual performance of political satire infused through song, dance and theatrical sketches. This year, the western political stage has put on quite a show and provided ample material to work with. Whilst these happenings have been vaguely terrifying on a world scale, when you boil it all down to satirical entertainment it sure does work in the audience’s favour.
This show covers a spectrum of topical issues and the cast of 4 take on innumerable caricatures of political personalities. The cast are Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Katrina Retallick and Phillip Scott, and yet they exhibit such versatility that I was convinced there must be more actors in the cast. The energy and focus required from each of them to move swiftly between songs and skits is formidable. Notably, the requirement of only one woman and no people of colour in the cast is a sad indicator of representation in western politics today.
I thoroughly enjoyed some of the musical numbers, including “Plebiscite” (bonus points for number of times they could use the word ‘pleb’), a Disney rendition of tolerant sea creatures seemingly unaffected by terrorism, and “Little Gob of Horrors” detailing the US Presidential race. Some of the intermittent sketches are also hilarious, awash with word play and some cutting societal observations. However, in the vein of variety, not all of the pieces hit the mark for me, with the concepts being too abstruse or relying too heavily on a knowledge of Australian political personalities. I found the pieces with thematic underpinnings to be more engaging.
Satire is a curious form of social commentary that can be both uproariously entertaining and err on the fringe of discomfort when speaking unsavoury truths. I found it fascinating to gauge when the audience did, and did not, laugh. Clearly some issues we still aren’t ready to make light of. A theatrical ‘institution’ such as The Wharf Revue is a good one. Political satire is at the forefront of keeping governmental absurdities and irrationalities in check. And how better to engage us plebs in this unwieldy political climate of ours, than through the splendid method of live entertainment!