They’re back! With more of the same but all completely new! It was an inspired choice to celebrate the re-opening of the Canberra Theatre Centre, following the easing of Covid restrictions, with the World Premiere of The Wharf Revue’s latest offering, Can of Worms.
For a while it seemed we were going to lose this much loved theatrical treasure with the creators making retirement noises. But it seems a change of management has set the combined creative nostrils flaring, and they’re back again, albeit in a slightly less lavish production, but displaying all the same rapier-sharp wit and naughtiness we’ve come to relish, as they pick their way through the current political can of worms.
They send themselves up rotten with a bright opening number set in a delightfully tacky op-shop, in which they change their own curtains, props and costumes, to explain their new production values.
But the audience was not fooled for a minute, for although the show lost a little of its intimacy and looked a bit dwarfed having to be presented in the larger Canberra Theatre rather than the smaller Playhouse, to compensate for Covid restrictions on seat numbers, they were quick to welcome it back with a warm, enthusiastic response.
Familiar targets included Donald Trump, scarily planning his comeback; a bumbling Biden; Scomo of course, offering a dash of Harry Belafonte; the Queen ruminating on her errant family; Rupert Murdock arguing with Mephistopheles; Michaelia Cash out-singing Shirley Bassey; Jacqui Lambie bemoaning the state of the Senate and a curiously poignant Gladys Berejiklian, accompanied by a supportive bouzouki band, reflecting on her miserable year.
A brilliant send-up of the soon-to-be-seen-in-Canberra musical, Come From Away, re-named “Go Far Away” – commenting pointedly on our refugee resettlement record; an increasingly frustrated Pauline Hanson attempting to keep her belligerent party members on track; and a bewildered Dorothy trying desperately to find affordable housing in Emerald City, are only a few of the memorable highlights in a packed, non-stop program.
Chameleons, Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe, Phillip Scott and Mandy Bishop make up the entire cast. Between them these highly skilled performers conjure up a multitude of characters with uncanny accuracy and bewildering speed, changing costumes, voices, even sex, as they perform their brilliantly conceived and staged sketches.
To give away more details of this revue would diminish the surprise element which provides so much of the enjoyment of discovering old favourites like Jonathan Biggins joyfully venal Donald Trump, Drew Forsythe’s malapropism-afflicted Pauline Hanson, Phillip Scott’s wickedly self-satisfied Kevin Rudd and Mandy Bishop’s manic Michaelia Cash.
They’re all there, along with a whole new bevy of brilliantly observed characterisations to be discovered and relished. Indeed Can of Worms could just be one of the best Wharf Revues yet.
The Wharf Revue: Can of Worms
Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Tuesday 9 November 2021|
Season continues to 20 November 2021
Image: The Wharf Revue: Can of Worms – photo by Vishal Pandey
Review: Bill Stephens OAM