Arts / The goodies, by the Wharfies

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The Wharf review writers, from left, Drew Forsythe, Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott… A bumper year of retrospective skits from the back catalogue and up-to-date works.
The Wharf review writers, from left, Drew Forsythe, Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott… A bumper year of retrospective skits from the back catalogue and up-to-date works.
THE Wharfies will soon be back in their spiritual home Canberra – this time for a whole two weeks – and, as they celebrate their 15th birthday, rumours of the popular revue’s imminent closure have been officially denied.

In fact, as Jonathan Biggins, one of the three creators gleefully tells “CityNews”, the The Wharf Revue has signed a new contract with the Sydney Theatre Company and is unlikely to go away any time soon.

In a bumper year of retrospective skits from the back catalogue and up-to-date works, the full team will be in town.

And for the favourite reruns Phil Scott gets to reprise Kevin Rudd in his Phantom-like “Rudd never dies” role; Biggins takes on the Mark Latham “Song Cycle”, describing the former Labor leader’s recent misdemeanours as “perfect timing for us” and former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark makes a welcome return to The Playhouse stage in the hands of Amanda Bishop.

It’s an obvious enough way of marking their 15th, but Biggins has noticed that the program elicits spontaneous laughs and another kind of “reflective” laughter that says: “I’d forgotten that”.

History aside, the Wharf team prides itself on being up-to-date, so sadly they had to abandon a portrayal of former Speaker Bronwyn Bishop as the Queen of Hearts –”beautiful costumes and all” – when she stepped down.

Senator George Brandis made a momentary appearance in 2014 after suggesting it was okay to be a bigot. But this year, Biggins tells us, after stripping the Australia Council of money, it’s only natural that he seizes the limelight, performing in his favourite art forms, ballet and opera.

Drew Forsythe, perhaps the most serious scriptwriter of the trio, takes on Christopher Pyne and gets to perform his own script as Alan Joyce, previously played by Josh Quong Tart while he was on leave.

You could argue that with three males and only one female, the casting is sexist, but this year Bishop gets the lioness’ share, reprising her famous Julia Gillard “Habanera”, also playing Clark, Julie Bishop, Janette Howard, Emma Alberici, Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb and a new showbiz star, Jacqui Lambie – “that’s really good,” Biggins says admiringly.

Biggins himself isn’t doing too badly, reprising Clive Palmer, Tony Abbott and Paul Keating in the nursing home with Bob Hawke.

So the team of usual suspects is ready for Canberra – the only problem is that with so much to choose from, they had to drop some beauties.

The Wharf Revue, The Playhouse, September 15-26, bookings to canberratheatrecentre.com.au or 6275 2700.

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Helen Musa
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