The Wharf Revue

Riverside Theatre, September 7


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Jonathan Biggins as – well, you know who. Photo: Brett Boardman

It might reasonably seem that a political universe peopled with such buffoons and grotesques as Trump, Kim, Putin, Duterte, Hanson, Roberts, Bernardi and Abbott, plus such featherweight blowhards as Turnbull, Bishop, Cash, Pyne, Shorten and Boris Johnson, leaves the poor satirist with nowhere to go. Save your sympathy. Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott have breezed through that dilemma like three bankers through an enquiry. Perhaps the dilemma didn’t really exist. It may have been figment of an imagination overheated by fake news.

It is not as oxymoronic as it sounds to say that this is both one of the funniest Wharf Revues and one of the most uneven. They are not mutually exclusive. The funniest parts of this year’s edition – read anything to do with Trump and Blazey Best’s Michaela Cash impression, among others – are as good as anything the team has come up with in about a century of assembling the show. Meanwhile some other moments collapse like a souffle when the oven fails. Were one being relentlessly optimistic one could say that at least the flat bits give your laugh muscles a breather.

Biggins has an especially strong batch of characters: Dutton, an alarmingly life-like Abbott, an on-video Louis XIV channelling Trump, and a show-stealing Trump, himself, as a wisecracking talk-show host, with guests Angela Merkel, Boris Johnson, Ivanka Trump and Vladimir Putin. It’s just a shame the wig isn’t as good at being Trump’s, er, “hair” as Biggins is at being the rest of him.

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Drew Forsythe does Pauline. Photo: Brett Boardman

Forsythe has fun with Turnbull (channelling Jimmy Barnes), Malcolm Roberts (“upholder of my own trousers” – a very Milligan line), Vlad the Impaler (channelling Trump), Hanson and Putin. Scott has Kim, Anh Do, a Big Banker and Johnson (with a splendid mess of a wig), while also, of course, taking care of the very clever musical business and playing the piano with singular effervescence. Newcomer Blazey Best fits in as if born to the task, variously playing Julie Bishop, Cash, James Ashby, Merkel (channelling Marlena Dietrich) and Ivanka.

David Bergman returns to handle the video elements with the sort of aplomb that suggests a budget much bigger than it probably was, and Andrew Worboys has recorded the musical segments that aren’t made by an in-the-flesh Scott. Even with the flat spots the 90 minutes sail past: the best bits are that hilarious. Trump had to be good for something.

Wharf Revue: Parramatta Riverside, until September 9; Canberra Theatre, September 12-23; Orange Civic Theatre, September 29-30; Glen Street theatre, October 4-14; Whitehorse Centre, October 19-21; Wharf 1 Theatre, October 24-December 30.