Presented by State Theatre Company South Australia and Soft Thread Productions
Reviewed 20 April 2021
This production was born from a skit in The Wharf Revue where Jonathan Biggins did a great impersonation of Paul Keating. Apparently when Keating saw an episode he remarked ‘I would have been wearing a better suit’(a bit beyond the show’s budget). I am not surprised that that was the only comment as Biggins presents a very fair portrait of the man.
He captures the sharp wit, honesty and flamboyance of Keating as he explores what he calls ‘a three-dimensional autobiography written by someone else’. The play has been written by Biggins himself and he has obvious respect and fondness for his subject. The mannerisms, the bluntness and the forthright language all serve to complete the picture of this well-respected politician.
He covers Keating’s early years and his entry into politics, discussing well known figures as he goes. His description of many of the figures he worked with or opposed is amusing, blunt and sometimes colourful. His comments and adjectives cause much merriment, deriding such figures as Kerr, Fraser, Abbott and others. Although he speaks well of Whitlam and Hawke his appraisal is honest seeing any flaws. Sharing opinions on characters like Bill Kelty gets a response from the audience, and I am sure much of it is truly how Keating felt.
Covering much of his career and his achievements sounds dull, but it’s not. The script is witty and clever, doing justice to the man who inspired it. The setting is well designed by Mark Thompson, well-lit by Verity Hampson, and Aarne Neeme’s direction gets the most out of the office set, using visual aids and measured movement. Then, of course, there are the songs! Reminiscent of the type of ditties in The Wharf Revue, Biggins slips seamlessly into full musical production without skipping a beat. The songs are entertaining, and Biggins can sing (and move a bit) so they are almost a highlight.
This is a show well worth seeing. Biggin’s characterisation holds the attention and has the audience with him right up the point where he tells us all to “F**k off” in exactly the tone I am sure Keating would have used.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Season: 19 April – 1 May
Duration: 85 mins (no interval)
Photo Credit: Brett Boardman