Review by Matthew Hocter
Politics has never really been my thing. Sure, I know what I believe in and where my vote lies when push comes to shove, but for the most part, like that other polemic topic, Religion, I tend to steer clear. Political satire on the other hand, whilst not being an expert of any kind in the area, is most definitely something I have grown to love and even respect in my adult life.
Walking into the Dunstan Playhouse to see Jonathan Biggins one man play about one of Australia’s most perplexing politicians, Paul Keating, and I’m struck, dumfounded if you will, at the level of diversity in age of the audience. Many of said audience were clearly born at the end of his “reign” as Prime Minister (1991 - 1996) or after, with the rest ranging anywhere from thirty to eighty years in age. Yes, this is satire, but at the same time, for those of us that lived through Keating’s time in parliament, to say he was a controversial figure would be an incredible injustice to the word controversial.
The stage was set up in exactly how you would imagine Keating’s office to look, old world and rather stoic, a surprising contradiction for the staunch republican. The minute that Biggins set foot on the stage, looking out into his audience, it was clear that this was going to be so much more than just a “good bit of theatre.” His impeccable impression of Keating, right down to his imposing stance coupled with a wit that encompassed on point timing to acerbic one liners and it was clear from the get go that Biggins safe place is most definitely the stage.
Portraying a character like Keating is no easy feat and Biggins didn’t break once in the ninety minute performance. With a notorious ego larger than Australia, it was Biggins ability to incorporate a steady stream of humour into his character, as well as breaking a few times for some incredibly touching moments, showcased a man that truly believed that he changed Australia for the better. Some agree, some don’t, but one thing is for sure, Keating acted out his role of PM with a sense of necessity rather than an incessant need to be liked, that so many other politicians seem to make their main priority.
The Gospel According to Paul is not only performed by Biggins, but written by the star too. An insightful and surprising look into a political enigma that divided a nation and possibly one of the greatest pieces of theatre Australia has been indulged in for quite some time. At the beginning of the play there is a line that Biggins lectures the audience with. “Leadership requires two things: Imagination and courage.” It is those two very things that could easily sum up this piece of theatre along with brilliant, hilarious and must see.