Theatre review: The Wharf Revue – Pride in Prejudice

In Pride in Prejudice, some of the satire is apt and cutting, some of it falls off the proverbial cliff ­– such is the death-or-glory of comedy and politics.

Apr 09, 2024, updated Apr 09, 2024
An 'Avenue Q+A' sketch scene from The Wharf Revue's 'Pride in Prejudice'. Photo: Vishal Pandey / supplied

An 'Avenue Q+A' sketch scene from The Wharf Revue's 'Pride in Prejudice'. Photo: Vishal Pandey / supplied

I’ll start by acknowledging that I was a clear demographic outlier in the audience on Monday evening at the Dunstan Playhouse.

Perhaps young people are just too absorbed in Tik-Toking their bros or rizzing their crushes to be interested in a revue about contemporary Australian politics. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of heart in this latest raucous romp about the trials and tribulations of our elected leaders from the Sydney-based Wharf Revue, which was last in Adelaide with The Gospel According to Paul.

The ensemble opens Pride in Prejudice with a pleasingly slapdash parody of an Austen-esque sitting room, with the three gentleman performers – Jonathan Biggins, David Whitney and Drew Forsythe – in full period drag, despairing at an increasingly modernising Anglican church.

The revue genre feels at once antiquated and well-suited to satirise the recent spate of culture war issues and political scandals with near immediacy. Thus, if you haven’t been paying attention for a few months, this is a convenient way to catch up.

It isn’t long before the excellent Mandy Bishop saunters in as Mr Darcy, returning home after an expedition to the unnervingly (for these English ladies) multicultural New South Wales, and we start to contemplate whether we’re still just a sphere of the Empire, or have grown into something new.

There’s a gleeful sophomoric nature to much of Pride in Prejudice. The stage is bare, bar a projection screen upstage that hosts video sketches, and a piano in the corner, played by Michael Tyack. The costume changes are frequent, impressions of public figures vary in their accuracy, and the musical parodies are delightfully close to copyright violations. A few of the sketches fall flat – some always do – but the performers pick themselves up and keep running.

Pride in Prejudice: ‘Play School with Jacqui Lambie and David Pocock’. Photo: Vishal Pandey

Bishop is a showstopper as she belts out multiple solos, including one as a disgruntled Julie Bishop. Biggins’ disconcertingly malleable face makes for some silly impressions, and Forsythe has an enjoyable moment as a sleepy Joe Biden. The group’s single jazz interlude demonstrates the sheer ease of their dynamic, and their strength as a comic ensemble.

There is a clear desire to be politically even-handed throughout the sketches. That said, there are a couple of moments that feel like punching down, despite the subjects being senators: a strange vaudeville number about Lidia Thorpe comes across like a conservative hit-piece, and a gag about Jacqui Lambie performing lewd acts at a fundraiser mostly provoked tuts rather than chuckles.

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However, the heartfelt and sombre musical number dedicated to the failed Voice referendum demonstrates the ensemble’s thoughtfulness within their otherwise rambunctious energy.

Pride in Prejudice is a welcome evening of light entertainment for an autumn week in Adelaide – you might just have to have been born last century to understand all the references.

The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice is playing at the Dunstan Playhouse until April 13.

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