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Wharf Revue 2016: Back To Bite You

Heather Wallace

A week might be a long time in politics but it’s a tight deadline for rewriting a satirical stage show.

Yet that’s what the Wharf Revue team had to do last year when Australia changed prime ministers (AGAIN) just before opening night. Hopefully writers Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott have made the most of longest election period in history to plan out all possibilities.

Exactly what comic interpretation of politics will emerge is the joy of the annual Wharf Revue, now in its 16th year. It’s guaranteed though that you’ll see pollies of all sides being simultaneously sent up and taken down a peg. In an hour and a half the four-person cast will sing, parody and make your sides ache laughing at the follies and foibles of our political elite.

Ahead of the show opening on 13 September for a 10 night run at the Canberra Theatre Centre, I caught up with cast member Katrina Retallick about whether she’s scouring the news every day to predict last minute script changes.

“I’m not experienced like the fellas, they think on their feet, but I’m not worried,” she tells me. “I’ll be playing Hilary Clinton and I’m expecting there’ll be some tweaks to the material as the build up continues to the US election.”

Katrina lets me in on the one thing she does fear: bursting out laughing at the antics of her fellow performers. “The writing is so funny that I’m really worried about cracking up on stage. They’ve made me laugh so hard at rehearsals so far, I have to give myself a stern talking to. I say to myself ‘Just you reign it in Retallick! These people have paid good money, so just you keep it together!’ It’s getting me across the line when the guys are just so funny to watch.”

STC_WharfRevue2016_credit Brett Boardman

Katrina herself is a veteran stage and comedy performer, from her days in TV’s Comedy Inc to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Growing up in Wagga Wagga (making her a Riverina kid like me and HerCanberra’s own Amanda Whitley) she was always interested in theatre, joining the Children’s Theatre Workshop where 10 and 11 years old would stage Noel Coward classics. It was good training for the wit and biting witticisms that characterise the Wharf Revue.

This is her first stage show in the two years since she had her daughter, and considering how often politicians behave like fractious toddlers, it’s a good transition back to the stage.

When I ask for any hints about pollies we’ll see, Katrina takes me behind the scenes. “I’ll be doing Jacquie Lambie and Julie Bishop, and seeing Drew Forsyth in a Pauline Hanson wig is a sight to behold. But out of all the characters I’m playing I’m really enjoying Hilary Clinton and bringing a big personality to the stage.”

She explains the art to playing such well-known characters. “The writing is really clever, and it’s not subtle characterisation. I learnt a lot from watching other performers on the Comedy Inc, who’d pick up a couple of very specific characteristics and take them to extremes.”

With the Wharf Revue coming back stronger every year, Katrina has a very simple explanation of why it’s so popular.

“Aussie audiences have such an appetite for satire and you can get away with an awful lot in a song,” she says.

And with the 45th Federal Parliament just opened in Canberra’s backyard, there’s bound to be enough farce to keep the cast going for years to come.

the essentials

What: Wharf Revue 2016: Back to Bite You
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: 13-24 September 2016
How much: Adults $45-$65; Concessions $40-$55; Under 27s $35
Purchase tickets and find out more information: canberratheatrecentre.com.au


Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (http://mythsandmisadventures.blogspot.com.au/), is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author

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