The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice

Union Theatre, University of Melbourne

The satirical virtuosity in this show is in both the writing and execution. A small, talented troupe of entertainers that has been at it annually since 2000 just keeps delivering. The only pity is that because they are based in Sydney, we rarely get to see them further south. Their material is cultural and political. They skewer noteworthy figures and politicians in a series of skits, both spoken and sung. Musically, they are accompanied, at times, on piano, while on other occasions they vocalise a capella. They are melodic … performer Mandy Bishop hits the high notes with aplomb. There are 15 vignettes, with the transitions between them seamless.

Photos by Vishal Pandey

Through 105 minutes of banter, not a word is misspoken. There is not a weak link in this performance at the newly opened Union Theatre. All artistes are mighty resilient and impressive. Not only do they deliver vocally, but quick-change costuming sees them closely resemble the characters they assume. The persona of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese looks like Anthony Albanese. So, too, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, and so on. From contemporary and historic figures to mining magnates, the scope of characterisations is broad.

No sketch is more hilarious than the take on US President Joe Biden, who – naturally – loses his way more than once … and falls asleep. On the other side of politics is the former leader of the free world, Donald Trump, in leg irons and on the run with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Video footage and a handful of props help elevate the overall spectacle. Pride in Prejudice is witty, wacky and just a tad wild. It is the work of co-directors, writers and performers Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe, alongside Phillip Scott. The cast also includes the previously mentioned Mandy Bishop and David Whitney, with Michael Tyack as musical director.

A drawing room setting and cross dressing are the hallmarks of the opening number, which takes a bigoted look at Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. With some astute puppetry, the ABC’s Q+A gets a working over, before French gang violence and protests are in the firing line. Lidia Thorpe is front and centre. Robodebt comes into sharp focus and the Federal Coalition is given the Stephen Sondheim song cycle treatment. Complete with stuffed toys, Jacquie Lambie and David Pocock are guest presenters on Play School.

The ratings hit The Crown makes an appearance – Charles confronted by ghostly visions of the Queen, Prince Philip and his ex, Princess Diana. Russia is rife for the picking, while Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia gives a soliloquy on the state of the planet. There is so much to get excited about in the cast’s faultless endeavours, which include alliteration and revelry aplenty. The ill-fated Voice and Qantas’ self-aggrandisement cop The Wharf handling. Finally, the side-splitting showcase of mirth and merriment closes with political double speak drawn from the 1949 musical South Pacific.

For those with a keen eye on politics and a broader world view, The Wharf Revue is a must see. It is easy to understand why the bright and brilliant members of this ensemble are considered liquid gold in Harbour town. I only wish they could become annual showstoppers in Melbourne too. Pride in Prejudice is playing at Union Theatre at the University of Melbourne until 24th February, 2024

Alex First

Alex First

Alex First believes all people have a story to tell, if only a good playwright can prize it out of them. Alex has a natural curiosity about the world and believes a strong narrative, or narrative with music, can open the door to subjects about which he knows little. Like his parents before him, theatre is his passion – a passion with emotional resonance, one that moves and excites him. He brings decades’ experience as an arts’ connoisseur to his role as a critic.
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