By PAUL SOMERVILLE
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any very successful entertainment franchise—book, film, TV show—is likely to go on and on, until well past its used-by date. It takes a brave creative team to turn down money and work, pulling the plug before a series jumps the shark, or simply becomes predictable and dull.
Political satire, The Wharf Review, has had an incredible 26 runs on stage now. When it started in 2000, John Howard, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton were in power, Donald Trump was a minor celebrity developing property in New York, and David Pocock was about to start high school!
It’s great to be able to say that, even after so many incarnations, this long-time end-of-year favourite with Sydney audiences is still brimming with verve and clever ideas. Most importantly of all, it’s still very funny!
Featuring the team’s signature witty song parodies, merciless impersonations and expertly positioned wigs, Pride in Prejudice welcomes some new characters to the cast of popular favourites. An interminably loquacious Kevin Rudd and a rough-as-guts Jacqui Lambie get some big laughs.
The show pokes fun at all sides of the proverbial aisle, lampooning the likes of Peter Dutton, Lidia Thorpe, Tanya Plibersek, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and Donald Trump with equal gusto. One of my favourite sketches is an ALP Caucus meeting where members including Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten are reimagined as Robin Hood and his Merry Men. They water down the “rob from the rich, give to the poor” watchword to make it more appropriate to a centrist party in power but without the guts or gumption to effect real change.
Humorous, expertly produced videos appear in between each scene. An in-flight-safety-video parody mocking the woes of Qantas is one standout.
As with any effective political satire, amid all the silly antics are some thoughtful insights and some darker moments. Segments on the Robodebt scandal and the looming threat of climate change—and a lament for the lost opportunity of the Voice referendum—may well leave audiences as sad and angry as they are amused and entertained.
Given the current state of global politics, one dreads to think of where we will be in 23 years. But hopefully the Wharf Review will still be around to shine a light on all that’s ridiculous and wrong.