Roslyn Packer Theatre, November 15


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Jonathan Biggins as the US’s Buffoon-in-Chief. Photo: Brett Boardman.

That ideological curiosity, Gerard Henderson, used the inimitable John Clarke’s Tory lampooning as further proof of the ABC’s heinous pinko bias. He apparently failed to understand that satirizing people who want a more open and generous world isn’t nearly as funny as poking fun at those who would make it narrower and meaner.

He should skip The Wharf Revue, because, boy, do Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe (now minus their third amigo, Phil Scott) hand out some stick in this year’s Deja Revue. As ever the show’s uneven, but its best material is so hysterical that twice I was brought to tears – an activity usually reserved for funerals, Puccini and hitting my thumb with a hammer.

Biggins and Forsythe are now the sole creators, and, despite Scott’s departure, music seems more pivotal than ever – almost overly so. Scott’s replacements are Douglas Hansell (performer) and Andrew Worboys (performer and musical director), joined by the admirably versatile Rachel Beck.

She begins in principal-boy mode as Turnbull in A Pantomime of a Once Principled Boy, with wicked step-sister versions of Abetz (Forsythe) and Andrews (Hansell), while Biggins is the particularly malicious Mother Abbott. It’s elaborate, amusing and over-long, with Beck’s singing a highlight.

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Drew Forsyth does his impression of wilful ignorance. Photo: Brett Boardman.

An anti-plastic routine is merely clever and nobly didactic, Beck’s Gladys Berejiklian (“building tomorrow’s Sydney tomorrow”) marginally more successful, and then the laughs start to mount. The Book of Cormann has four Mathias Cormanns, with Biggins’s accent scarily real. Much more ruthless is Hansell’s portrayal of Barnaby Joyce, the man who thought national television was a good place to remain inconspicuous for a while.

Then comes the first eye-waterer, Forsythe’s Pauline Hanson: a feast of malapropisms, bafflement and upward inflections. Much less successful are a Greens sketch and an undercooked ScoMo (Hansell). The second eye-waterer is Biggins unleashing all the devilish authenticity of his Keating impression, savaging the current Tory rabble as a greyhound would a rabbit.

Beck’s a mildly amusing Michaela Cash, before Biggins crowns the show as Trump, whom Putin (Forsythe) and al-Assad (Hansell) instruct on the path to leadership for life, while Beck provides a slinky Stormy Daniels and pouting Melania. Forsythe returns as the Queen, reluctantly meeting Trump, and, intriguingly, they refrain from satirizing her, investing her with an almost poignant dignity in the face of the man who doesn’t know the meaning of the word.

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