BY AMELIA GROOM
Drew Forsythe, Jonathan Biggins, Amanda Bishop and Phillip Scott are The Wharf Revue ‘ a quartet who’ve been delivering annual doses of sharp political satire skits at Sydney Theatre for the last nine years. I caught up with Drew Forsyth during rehearsal for their upcoming production, Waiting for Garnaut, and I started by commenting that we’ve had an interesting, roller-coaster year in politics’
We certainly have. In some ways we hate to see certain people go because they’re such good material. We got lot of mileage out of John Howard, and Alexander Downer is the perfect buffoon to have in any show, and sadly he’s moving on. Well, sadly for us – though the rest of the country might be grateful.
So what can we expect from you guys this time around’
It’s a bit of a different show this time. We always try to reflect the characters in the real world, but also the feelings that society is having at the time. So this is a society that’s basically running out of petrol, and we start and finish the show, Waiting for Garnaut, with those feelings ‘ and there’s lots in between.
Tell me about your characters
We have doctor Iemma and his friends operating on their terminal patient New South Wales. We do Brendan Nelson as an I’m Not There biopic – we all play him because he’s everybody and nobody. We do Malcolm Turnbull as Napoleon in exile, biding his time and waiting to take the crown. We do Kevin Rudd as the novice nun in The Sound of Music, who is having doubts about her vows. She’s met by Sister Gillard who talks her through a few things, and then meets Mother Superior ‘ Keating.
You’re very inclusive!
We try and get around everything. Just when we think ‘god, there’s going to be nothing to write about,’ somebody always puts their foot in it and away we go ‘ we also do the New Zealand swim team who’s going to the Olympics for the four by four relay. They’re followed by a couple of penguins who can’t work out who the hell these guys are in their swimsuits. Jonathan also plays Obama as a rapper, and there’s a whole rap number on his policies. And we do The Harare Gospel Choir singing about their wonderful leader Mugabe, occasionally criticizing him and getting shot as they go. Then we finish with a happy little song and a falsely optimistic conclusion.
Thinking about political satire, it’s interesting isn’t it that Keating! The Musical has continued to be so phenomenally successful’
That’s true. Shane Warne The Musical is the next one coming up, though that’s not political, but I think the secret to satire is that people need to be able to relate to the character. People can recognize generic traits and that’s the appeal ‘ you’ve got to strike a chord.
The theatre is obviously a great place to explore issues that might not be dealt with elsewhere, but it does attract a privileged, educated audience that’s probably already agreeing with you. So how useful is satire in that context’ Is it just entertainment’
Quite possibly, but we’d like to think that we can expand our audiences a bit. Political satire has the potential to reach a wide audience ‘ The Chaser boys have shown that. The more popular the form becomes the more aware people will become of different aspects of the society.
Waiting For Garnaut
Until August 24
Wharf 1, Sydney Theatre Company
Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
Tickets: $42-$48, 9250 1777 or www.sydneytheatre.com.au