Arts / Coming ‘home’ to fool around

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Douglas Hansell, Phillip Scott and Jonathan Biggins rehearse “Open for Business”. Photo by Grant Sparkes-Carroll.
Douglas Hansell, Phillip Scott and Jonathan Biggins rehearse “Open for Business”. Photo by Grant Sparkes-Carroll.
WHILE the rest of the country debates whether Australia is truly “open for business”, there is rejoicing backstage at the Wharf Revue.

For nothing, I find, when I chat to the brilliant musical director, performer and writer Phillip Scott, is quite so delightful to a satirist as a change of government, not even if it means losing your best part.

I catch up with Scott by phone to Wollongong. He and fellow actors, Jonathan Biggins, Amanda Bishop and Douglas Hansell (Drew Forsythe’s away with “Strictly Ballroom”) have already premiered their new show in Penrith and Parramatta, but soon they’ll be here in Canberra, the revue’s spiritual home.

“Fortunately we haven’t had to repeat ourselves… with a change of government, there are new people in power and that’s good for us,” Scott exults.

Mind you, there will be nostalgic reappearances of Paul Keating and Julia Gillard, but not his most famous role, that of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Scott took a sabbatical last year and returned to find him gone.

“It’s terribly sad, really,” he says. “But don’t forget that I used to do John Howard before Rudd.”

One prize source of comedy is Clive Palmer. “We’ve done Clive before, but his insolence has grown greatly,” Scott continues, “then we’ve got Scott Morrison, George Brandis and all the new front bench… admittedly they’ve been around for several years, but now they’re more in the public eye.

Being equitable, they do have “Blinky Bill” Shorten, who gives the actors an excuse to get into koala suits. “Tony Abbott gets to play the Goanna, the baddie in Blinky Bill’s forest.”

While he was away last year, Scott likes to boast, it took two people – a pianist and actor – to replace him, though he still co-wrote it with Forsythe and Biggins and did the musical supervision. But this year there’s an embarrassment of riches, since Forsythe’s replacement, actor Douglas Hansell, can play the piano while Scott’s getting into his koala suit.

In a rare serious moment, Scott pause to reflect sardonically: “Now the Opposition is doing the bipartisan thing, at the moment, sending us into Iraq, which was such a success last time.”

Talking of seriousness, Scott admits there is nothing like Forsythe’s Rupert Murdoch-King Lear piece this time, but there is quite a serious piece about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“We can’t possibly make jokes about that,” he says, but musically, it’s a very ornate piece, and yes, a little bit ecclesiastical, with a bit of “Allegri Miserere” and an organ backing.

“We always like to have a moment where we stop making silly jokes and say something that makes a point, then we immediately cut back and go back to fooling around… It’s a bit of a risk but I think it works.”

The Wharf Revue, “Open for Business” at The Playhouse, September 30 to October 4, 90 minutes, no interval. Bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.

 

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