‘Stand-out’ performance of the real Keating

Theatre / “The Gospel According to Paul”, Canberra Theatre Centre, March 26–31. Reviewed by JOE WOODWARD. 

LAUGHTER, empathy, insight! Three ingredients that make a visit to “The Gospel According to Paul” sheer theatrical magic.

Jonathan Biggins as former Prime Minister, Paul  Keating

Jonathan Biggins has been portraying Paul Keating as a comical character for many years with The Wharf Revue. His creation has always been a stand-out feature of many productions. Now, he indulges the audience with a ninety-minute presentation that is virtually unrivalled as a one-person satirical performance that is also imbued with a deep humanity.

One doesn’t have to be a fan of Paul Keating to get it! This first-class performance is grounded in parody that transforms into a genuine character study. It is playful while maintaining theatrical integrity through a tight structure aided by Mark Thompson’s set design. Biggins completes the space as a kind of design element as he moves through it as an almost spectral figure that simply will never leave.

The effective use of dated technology provides authenticity to the story Paul is telling and reprising. The audience sees much of the real Keating at moments of deep drama and surprising candour. Yet the play never lingers or is distracted from its main thread revealing a character who enjoys playing himself as the star of his own show.

I am sure there will be an academic treatise on this significant work; but here is not the place to begin. “The Gospel According to Paul” deserves its full houses and is a “must-see” if you want to laugh and learn something of Australian icons: both Paul Keating and Jonathan Biggins!

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