The media honeymoon may be coming to an end for Anthony Albanese and his government, but with less than a year under its belt, it’s not yet presenting much of a target for the Wharf Revue.
Albo and the team cop a gentle swat now and again – mostly in a Robin Hood skit that makes much of fudged promises regarding income redistribution and the preservation of Ye Olde Forest, among other things – but I suspect that we’ll see richer pickings next time around when the funny sides of the likes of Chris Bowen, Jim Chalmers and Tanya Plibersek have emerged (if they ever do, that is).
Happily, there are enough laughable figures on the current opposition and crossbenches to fire up the 24th year of the satirical variety show, as ever written by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phil Scott.
The opening skit takes us to Jane Austen’s England for a lesson on the roots of Australian prejudice (Mandy Bishop is a dashing Darcy). From there, the show flits around harvesting chuckles and delivering occasional stings. It’s not all comic gold but there are some solidly amusing skits. The ABC’s Q&A gets an Avenue Q-style makeover of guest panelists Hannah Gadsby, Mark Latham and Peter Fitzsimmons. Donald Trump (Biggins) and Rudy Giuliani (Forsythe) are caught in the spotlight, hiding in a swamp having just escaped a prison chain gang. Senators Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock turn up as Playschool hosts. Lydia Thorpe’s headline-grabbing personality is gleefully skewered by Groucho Marx.
A spoof of Netflix’s The Crown sees Biggins’ dithering Charles visited by an apparition of his late mummy (Forsythe reviving one of his speciality turns). A Sondheim spoof, Pollies, shows the team still has the goods when it comes to repurposing musical theatre classics for its own ends.
I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a more of Whitney’s dour Peter Dutton in coming shows and I do hope we’ll see Forsythe’s hilariously geriatric Joe Biden in the Revue’s 25th edition. Or will Biggins’s Trump be centrestage? One awaits the next show with very mixed feelings.
A sketch devoted to Parisian strikers, an encounter between David Marr (Biggins) and the Robodebt computer and that Labor-spoofing Robin Hood skit are marginally less rewarding, but taken as a whole, Pride in Prejudice is smart, snappily paced and the time spent with it flies.
Not every Wharf Revue has left me wanting more, but this one did.
The Wharf Revue – Pride in Prejudice plays at the Seymour Centre, Chippendale, Sydney until 23 December. It also plays the Union Theatre, University of Melbourne 12–24 February, part of Melbourne Comedy Festival 2024.