Arts / Wharf presents the pantomime of power

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Jonathan Biggins… “There was some pretty quick re-writing to transform Scott Morrison from Treasurer to PM.” Photo by Brett Boardman

PANTOMIME is a pretty apt metaphor for what’s been going on in Canberra in the last 12 months – and the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue has been quick to seize on it.

Jonathan Biggins who, with Drew Forsythe, co-wrote the show, has titled this year’s performance “Déjà Revue” because of the ever-revolving doors in our corridors of power.

He is the only one of the Wharf’s original creators left standing; Forsythe was carried off to hospital for an operation days into their season at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre and musical maestro/satirist Phillip Scott retired from the team last year.

Not to worry, the show must go on and as Biggins proudly boasts to “CityNews” when we catch up with him: “We’ve never ever cancelled even one show”.

Not even in 2015, when there was a change of prime minister the day before they opened in Canberra.

Simon Burke steps in for the Canberra season, Andrew Worboys is musical director, seasoned musical theatre star Rachael Beck plays delicious female roles such as Michaelia Cash and Melania Trump, and Doug Hansell, who’s been with the Wharf once before in the show “Open For Business”, plays our latest PM.

So how are they coping with our latest change in prime minister?

“That happened in the second week of rehearsals, so there was some pretty quick re-writing to transform Scott Morrison from Treasurer to PM,” he says.

“But I think we’ll be fairly safe for the rest of the season, unless Alan Jones gets to him [Morrison] I can’t see them going to an early election, can you?” he says.

Biggins reminds us that Turnbull has a history in rolling a PM, too, so they’ve had to add “a bit of a coda about that” and he will do a Paul Keating monologue reflecting on the present state of Australian politics.

“We certainly still have a pantomime where we see the rise and fall and rise and fall of Malcolm.”

That’s a nice parallel to their Gillard-era number, “Rudd Never Dies”.

“It’s always the same thing happening over and over again,” Biggins says and that’s why we’ve called it “Déjà Review”.

So what will Canberrans relate to? Canberrans always get more of the jokes than anybody else, Biggins says, but here goes:

  • Beck will play Malcolm Turnbull as the panto Principal Boy and Stormy Daniels as well as Michaelia and Melania;
  • Hansell will do a country number as Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews as an ugly sister and Peter Dutton as Prince Charmless;
  • Burke will be the other ugly sister, Christopher Pyne is the Fairy Godfather;
  • and Biggins, apart from playing Keating, Trump and Bob Brown, will open the show as “Buttons”, “the world’s angriest panto character”.

In short, Biggins says, “it’s business as usual.”

“Déjà Revue”, The Playhouse, October 23-November 3. Bookings to or 6275 2700.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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