The Actors Benevolent Fund is a non-profit, charitable organisation who has been providing financial and practical assistance to professional performers since 1944. They support individuals who are unable to work due to illness, injury or disability. This charity recently held a fundraising night at Dendy Opera Quays where they screened a recording of the 2015 instalment of The Wharf Revue live production. This is a popular, political satire and cabaret show that was celebrating its 15th anniversary at the time. This film was a funny and biting look at Australia’s political and cultural landscapes.
The Wharf Revue is written and performed by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott. The latter also doubles as the group’s musical director. For this performance the trio were joined on-stage by Amanda Bishop who – like the three primary cast members – was a master of impersonations. She nailed everyone from Julia Gillard and Jacqui Lambie to Annabel Crabb and Lateline’s Emma Alberici, to name a few.
The show features video pieces that help in transitioning between the different sketches and ensures that the show is nicely cohesive. It also allows the performers to change costumes (there is one particularly memorable outfit where Scott plays senator George Brandis in a business suit on top and a light-flecked tutu on the bottom.) The production is a fast-paced, energetic one that blends a lot of different things together. There are popular songs that are reworked with new satirical lyrics. The Greek financial crisis is tackled here thanks to the mega mix from the Grease musical and Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart sing “My Heart Will Go On” about their parts in the mining boom while performing as Jack and Rose from the Titanic.
The sketches include takes on literary stories like Qantas CEO Alan Joyce tackling James Joyce. There are also skits that reference musicals with Kevin Rudd playing the Phantom Of The Opera (here he’s the man who speaks in Mandarin, which has a lovely ring to it) while this is all to Julia Gillard’s horror and there’s Les Liberables which satirises Les Misérables. There is also a live radio play taking off The Goon Show as they search for the ABC charter while the evil forces of News Limited loom large. One thing that is apparent from this creative and varied comedy is that there are no sacred cows, everyone is a potential target for skewering or inspiring naughty jokes and cheeky slices of satire.
Because 2015 was a special performance celebrating an anniversary, some of the older sketches about former politicians also got a look-in. Scott played führer John Howard in his final days of office (which were compared to the fall of the Third Reich.) Jonathan Biggins’ Paul Keating meanwhile, was note-perfect. It was funny to see him conspiring with Bob Hawke from their wheelchairs in the old folks’ home.
The film of The Wharf Revue from 2015 was an excellent one that captured the mirth and madness of this live performance. The comedy was still biting and tongue-in-cheek a few years on and the multiple cameras ensured that we were all treated to an intimate, front row seat. The Wharf Revue is ultimately a slick and clever commentary about Australian life and it was a fun charity event for the Actors Benevolent Fund.
This charity also has some other fund-raising events in the pipeline including a dress rehearsal of the musical Melba at the Hayes Theatre and an indoor cabaret picnic night. For more information about these events and the Actors Benevolent Fund please visit: http://www.actorsbenevolentfund.org.au/