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Review: The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice at the Dunstan Playhouse

Review by Lisa Lanzi


For twenty four years The Wharf Revue has been thrilling Sydneysiders - finally they have brought that storied hilarity to Adelaide.  A mix of live sketches are interspersed with pre-recorded material on screen covering scene and costume changes, peppered with the sharp wit and biting satire we expect from such brilliant writers as Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott.  In essence, much of the comedy requires that you are cognizant of national and international current affairs; fortunately the performances and caricatures are just so darn good you might still laugh even if the content doesn’t hit home for you.


The opening night actorly energy in Adelaide was a little slow to warm up though that may have been due to the Monday night audience’s initial lack of responsiveness.  Not sure!  Accompanied by a particularly unflattering-but-hilarious photograph on screen the severe ‘Barnaby Joyce’ pre-show voice-over instructing us to turn off our bloody phones was a great start,.  Certainly by the finale, many in the audience were guffawing and appreciating the skill on show and the numerous ‘sacred cows’ that had the satirical dirt piled upon them.  


In homage to the title twist, the first moments gave us a cross-dressing Regency-era scene, complete with pantaloon-ed ‘Mr’ Darcy.  The characters set the tone with digs at colonialism, racism and feminism:  So that ‘Elizabeth’ doesn’t embarrass with her fierce views she must pretend for the moment that ‘Patriarchy’ is the Irish bloke that lives down the street.  The ‘daughters’ announce they are still living at home, “just like the Reserve Bank told us we should” because no young folk can afford to rent or buy any longer.


A cavalcade of political figures is of course central to the sketches.  Dutton, Albanese, Trump, Giuliani, Lidia Thorpe, Jacqui Lambie, Kevin Rudd, Joe Biden, Putin, and more populate scene after scene.  From Play School to South Pacific, from QandA to Robin Hood, the writing places these folk in some seriously funny situations and the rapid fire jokes do not disappoint.  An Oh Brother Where Art Thou prison escape scene featuring Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (public enemy No. 1 and public enema No. 1!) have them serenading Mar-a-Lago, its gold toilets, and those faucets running with cola.  Dutton sings “Yes, I’m just a man who MUST say no” to Oaklahoma’s “I Cain’t Say No”, but is censured by Albanese (expertly rendered by Jonathan Biggins) because he’s singing from a different musical; The Labour bunch are all inhabiting South Pacific with gusto.


A wicked and welcome roasting of the Royal Family happens when a bumbling then napping King Charles converses in a dream with deceased relatives Queen Elizabeth I and II and Prince Philip, plus his ex-wife, wonderfully observed by Mandy Bishop, as she cautions him to follow in her footsteps and become ‘the peoples’ King’.  Sondheim’s Follies morphs into Pollies with some excellent bar stool choreography and the beautiful singing voices under the direction of Michael Tyack.  On a more sombre note later in the 100+ minute show, in glorious four part a cappella, the cast sings of The Voice referendum.  Sung to a poignant, slowed version of ‘Bad Moon Rising’, the cast mention “resentment and petty power plays” and that now we’re “saying sorry, once again”.


One video highlight was the impersonation of Clive Palmer and Gina Reinhardt singing badly to the tune of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ glorifying in sickly prose their commercial needs and greed.  Some pithy, demanding and hilarious alliteration was bantered back and forth by ‘Major Dick Tingle’ and ‘Caroline Kennedy’ as they outlined the necessity for Pacific cooperation between the US and Australia, or perhaps ‘coercion’ pinpoints it better.  Despite most of the comedy hitting the mark a live scene with three ‘French’ protesters banging on about their rights to protest as they please could have been left out.  It dragged some and was a little cringeworthy, as was a video reel in amongst the Putin ‘opera’ segment.  On screen was ‘Yelena Tittsoff’, the supposed neighbour of the deceased Wagner mercenary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin; a droll moniker but less than funny anecdote.  Probably the most appreciated of Todd Decker’s fine video design elements was a mock Qantas pre-flight spiel ending with the flight’s cancellation, after detailing the many shortcomings of the carrier over the last few years.  


Directed by Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe Pride in Prejudice gave us a welcome comedic interlude this Autumn.  The very fine performances by Biggins and Forsythe alongside colleagues Mandy Bishop, David Whitney, and Michael Tyack were much appreciated and truly masterful.  May the Wharf Revue live on and the quality satire and pointed wit flourish.


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