It’s ‘Good Night’ as The Wharf waves goodbye

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The Wharf Revue… goodbye in September.

IT’S official, Canberra’s favourite political comedy show, “The Wharf Revue” is pulling the plug on its brilliant career with its swansong production, “Good Night and Good Luck”.

But fear not, audiences were assured at the Canberra Theatre‘s 2020 season launch tonight (October 21) the whole gang – Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott and Julia Gillard lookalike Mandy Bishop – will be back together to say adios to The Wharf’s spiritual home. It doesn’t open until September 15, but it’s bound to book out.

The 2019 subscription season has the usual amalgam of shows designed to please the whole family, but it’s also a year of rare theatrical coups with a couple of heavyweight issues thrown in for good measure.

The musical theatre coups begin with that Eric Idle favourite, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, staged by One Eyed Man Productions, which brought “Calamity Jane” to town in 2018. Canberra Theatre staffers are told that Pythonesque humour is completely cross-generational, guaranteeing a hit for the season opening. 

The biggest coup of the year is surely getting Opera Australia’s touring production of Jimmy Chi’s “Bran Nue Dae”, billed as the first Aboriginal musical and first aired outside WA. It’s at the Canberra Theatre in October, during the National Festival of Australian Theatre. 

That’s followed later in the year by Opera Australia’s touring “Carmen”, directed by Matthew Barclay and conducted by Luke Spicer. 

No less a coup is the inclusion of David Williamson‘s contemporary play “Family Values”, with Andrew McFarlane playing a retired Federal Court judge whose daughter brings home an asylum seeker on the run from Nauru. Williamson takes a firm swipe at his own generation who, like the judge, have retired from defending the humanitarian values of their youth.

Thematically linked to this will be “Return to Escape from Woomera”, an add-on in the Courtyard Studio from new media arts company Applespiel. Based on the Ruddock-Howard era computer game based on an asylum-seeker on a journey, it will be played live with commentary from a panel of artists, activists and former detainees.

The word “coup” actually appears in the title of the Ensemble Theatre’s “Broadcast Coup”, where former Canberra playwright and ABC presenter Melanie Tait takes on her own industry and the #MeToo movement in one go, when cutthroat journalist Jez, played by comedian Amber McMahon, faces her self-made demons. 

The usual suspects will be here, including tried and true favourites, such as Circa, coming with “Peepshow”; “The Choir of Men”, a dance and music show set in the local “Jungle” pub and Shake & Stir Theatre Co’s stylish “Animal Farm”, seen at The Q in 2013.

Bangarra, enigmatic as always about the name of their next show, will be here, but for the first time in years, there’s no sign of the Sydney Theatre Company – nothing sinister there, Canberra Theatre says, it’s just the way it fell out.

Bell Shakespeare is once again hell-bent on bending genders, with Peter Evans directing Harriet Gordon-Anderson as Hamlet and Janine Watson directing Julia Billington as the twin Dromios in “The Comedy of Errors.” 

Bound to get theatrical buffs wondering if the playwright is a dying breed is the inclusion of plays adapted from films and/or novels, with “Wake in Fright” as a one-man play staged by Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre and “My Brilliant Career”, starring Nikki Shiels as Sybylla, from its Sydney counterpart, Belvoir. 

Come to think of it, “Spamalot” was based on a film, too. 

At a glance

  • “Monty Python’s Spamalot” February 26 to March 1.
  • “Family Values” March 11-14.
  • “The Choir of Man” March 26-28.
  • “Return to Escape from Woomera” April 3.
  • “Hamlet” April 9-18.
  • Circa’s “Peepshow” April 22-24.
  • “A Broadcast Coup” May 27-30.
  • Bangarra Dance Theatre, July 16-18.
  • “Wake in Fright” August 5-8.
  • “Bran Nue Dae” August 11-16.
  • “Animal Farm” August 20-22.
  • “Carmen” September 3-5.
  • The Wharf Revue, September 15-26.
  • “The Comedy of Errors” October 2-10.
  • “My Brilliant Career” October 21-24.


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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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