Simon says the world is a much crazier place  

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Actor Simon Burke gets to play what he describes as “a conga line of monsters”: Scomo, Mark Latham Alan Jones Julian Assange and Boris Johnson in the new The Wharf Revue, subtitled “Unr-Dact-D”, reports arts editor HELEN MUSA.

“I LOVE doing it in Canberra,” says actor Simon Burke of the Sydney Theatre Company’s latest instalment of The Wharf Revue, subtitled “Unr-Dact-D”, written by that old gang of Wharfies, Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott.

Simon Burke as UK PM Boris Johnson… “a wig works wonders in that role,” he says. Photo: Brett Boardman

He probably loves doing it anywhere. After all, he gets to play what he describes as “a conga line of monsters”: Scomo, Mark Latham, Alan Jones, Julian Assange and Boris Johnson – “a wig works wonders in that role,” he says.

This is the third time round with the Wharfies for Burke, but officially it’s only his second. In 2013, he filled in when one of the team was having a sabbatical and this year he’s been engaged to replace Biggins while he’s doing “The Gospel According To Paul”. Unexpectedly last year, Burke had two days’ notice to learn the whole show when Forsythe was rushed to hospital for an operation.

This year, for the first time he can remember, instead of having just one female actor with “the boys” there will be two – Lena Cruz and Helen Dallimore with Andrew Worboys as Mr Music.

“It’s great having a slightly bigger cast of two women, it has a different kind of feel,” Burke says. 

Mind you, there are a couple of “pretty brutal, sombre moments” and a moving tribute by Forsythe to the late Bob Hawke, but for the larger part, its broad comedy and very funny. 

He’s got a pretty big workload this time round. In the Scomo number, for instance, he has to do a five-minute straight patter song, of which he says: “There’s no room to breathe.”

Oh, yes, and he’s also playing Tony Abbott. 

“This year we seem to be pulling focus on how Australia, Great Britain and the US are going in terms of their leaders,” he says.

“The world is a much crazier place and with the interest in Brexit, Trump and China stuff, it’s probably a more international revue than the normal ones.”

Mind you, the pull of Pauline Hanson and the message that “Pauline’s back” gives a distinctively Australian feel to the parts where she appears, portrayed by Drew Forsythe so accurately that when I heard Hanson speaking recently on radio, I just assumed it was Forsythe 

“It’s worth the price of the ticket just to see Drew as Pauline,” Burke says.

In 2019 the conga line makes its way into a spoof on “Cabaret”, with Alan Jones as the MC and Mark Latham singing “Maybe This Time” from the musical, in which you think he might be mastering his anger, but then he loses it in the end.

Another great scene sees Julian Assange and George Pell dancing to “The Cellblock Tango” from Chicago, with Dallimore playing Matron Mama Morton.

Under duress, Burke reveals what the really dark sketch is – it’s about Aung San Suu Kyi.

“So many people loved her, but she turned out to be different from what they thought – it’s the most powerful, the most powerful moment in the show, it’s the climax,” Burke says.

“The Wharf Revue 2019: Unr-Dact-D”, The Playhouse, until November 23. Book at canberratheatrecentre.com.au 

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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