There’s a story about Michael Frayn’s play Noises Off, which, while it was running in the West End, had the ushers having to deal with – every night, mind you – at least one seat left slightly damper than it had been before the show started. Apparently the audience was laughing so much that some of them lost control of their bladders. Last year, the Wharf Revue came rather close, one imagines, to having the same effect.
Bladders weren’t in quite the same danger as they might have been in the Wharf Revue’s latest incarnation: Red Wharf.
There’s the same cast of characters – Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, as well as Paul Keating – but the musical sendups (the Same Sex Marriage of Figaro, for instance) don’t have the same punch as they had previously. The set is a Star Wars affair, complete with intergalactic viewing screen and futuristic neon lights, launched into space as a last ditch attempt to save humanity after the Carbon Tax ruined everything. Space then transforms into the Renaissance, and runs the gamut of gun shops to Mary Poppins.
The main problem is the absence of Jonathan Biggins, who makes only a few cameos via the video screen, managing to steal the show without even being on the stage. (His Yoda take on Mr Ed is a logic-defying and brain-bashing tour de force.) He also rolls out his Paul Keating again, the decapitated head speaking from aboard the spaceship. Replacing him is Josh Quong Tart, who certainly has great comic skill, but doesn’t quite come up to scratch. The writing, too, doesn’t match the brilliance which the team managed to give life to last year – it’s all a bit too clever by half, with not enough stupidity to balance things out.
Highlights included Julia Poppins, where red-wigged Amanda Bishop tells how “appearing on television makes the opinion polls go down, opinion polls go down…”, as well as Phillip Scott’s poignant take on how the Earth will be destroyed in Garden of Earthly Delights. There’s plenty of laughs to be had, but they’re not as hearty, nor as numerous, as they have been before.