Arts Revue delivers Bob Katter’s Hot Minion Summer with chaos and tenacious spirit and a whole lotta cast service.
Arts Revue opens with the cold, unflinching eyes of Dora the Explorer and her talented cop buddies searching for clues as to where Arts Revue has gone for the last two years. The skit stretches on over several scenes and witnesses, before finishing on a terrified looking first year saying, “The truth is…” and blue ballsing the audience with a fade to black delivered with perfect comedic timing from the performers and the tech crew.
It steers clear of your usual -ist jokes…For the most part. Would it be Australia’s university with the lowest enrolment rate of low SES background students in Australia’s city with the highest average rent if we didn’t throw in a classist joke?
A sketch lamenting the ‘extinction of Florida Man’ and the ‘closely related cousin, the Australian Bogan’ played up stereotypes meant to poke fun at ‘white trash’. However, it came across tone deaf when delivered in the same revue as students singing loudly about the dreadful, awful couch worthy tragedy of having to work in the APS with its job security. Or even trade your soul away to the private sector and its high figured salaries. This association of low SES people in dehumanising, animal-like language is nothing new, it dates to a studied phenomenon of class bias. That this skit made it through several stages of the drafting and the performance process begs the wider question of classism at ANU, a question not suited to be explored here.
The skits mixed a range of comedic styles from sexually charged Bob Katter erotica, to self-arranged musical parodies of the pains of grad job hunting, to pop culture references. One of the directors refers to it as divine, delirious chaos, and it certainly was. Arts Revue also doesn’t shy from satirising life on campus (Jedi Council for ANUSA anyone?) to Canberra culture (expect the number of babies named DavidPocock, yes, all one word, to rise in the next few years) to broader socio-political strata.
Arts Revue made great use of its form, engaging the audience with a great deal of interaction. The performers continue to run into the audience on some songs, as well as emerging from the stands, or calling for one crew member’s father to stand (done impromptu too). There was a skit involving seeing if the Woroni reviewer was there too; I didn’t respond, unsure if it was actually seeking audience participation or if it was just part of the skit. When I told the Directors this, they laughed, and we lamented the opportunity to have done something impromptu. It may have been fun, they say, gushing about their belief in the abilities of the cast to improvise.
As for the directors, I was well and truly pranked. Attending a rehearsal to gather interviews, I approached the Canberra REP theatre, notepad at the ready. I ask to speak to the directors of Arts Revue and two young lads present themselves: I meet Charlie and Rory. We have a conversation where they reveal themselves to be science students, both proclaiming to have had no prior revue experience and then went onto describe themselves as which of the iconic moves of the iconic character ‘Po’ of the iconic franchise Kung Fu Panda they were.
In hindsight, the red flags were many and varied.
After the show, I met the real directors of the show: Claire and Finn. Yes indeed, Charlie and Rory had duped me. Claire and Finn were previously described to me as ‘the old hands’ of Arts Revue, and then also as ‘Master Oogway’ and ‘Master Shifu’ (respectively) before we all had the [spoilers] realisation that Master Oogway indeed passed away and perhaps it was better to choose a mentor character that made it unscathed through the events of the movie.
Claire became Po’s Dad after that.
Now that the revue is over, Claire and Finn glow with the exhausted satisfaction of a job well done. They speak at length happily about the camaraderie they felt in doing Arts Revue, and practically glow with pride when we discuss the growth as performers that the whole team has experienced. Then, we get down to the nitty gritty of administration, to twin winces from the directors.
Theatre kids are not born with the innate knowledge of how to put on a revue. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge that goes into not just writing and performing, but also the whole shebang of hiring a venue, sound, and lighting equipment, as well as advertising. It’s a huge undertaking, and one that Claire and Finn handled without the help of an Executive Producer (who traditionally handle more of the administrative elements). Sprinkle in two years of COVID (2022 was Finn’s third revue, but her first one that went ahead) and a cast of fresh eager faces, the task of guiding them falls firmly on the shoulders of the Directors.
Notwithstanding the whole show was paid for out of pocket by those in it, since Arts Revue has lost access to their bank account over the stretch of the pandemic.
It was only with the tenacious spirit of the cast and crew that pushed Arts Revue to happen this year, born out of no obligation other than the sheer desire to See It Through. Why? Well, I hear it’s because it’s ‘so dangerously fun.’ The Arts Revue opened with a skit that asked, where has Arts Revue been the last two years? “The truth is…”it doesn’t matter. It was here this year. And it will be here next year, and the year after that.
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