Arts (Revue) in Wonderland

The annual Arts Revue always promises to be a night of creative and hilarious fun provided by Arts students from across the ANU. The 2014 Arts Revue directed by Leila Packett and Vivek Sharma has successfully continued this tradition by crafting a wonderful show, including humorous rewrites of all of our favourite songs and a litany of pop culture references.

Taking place at the Courtyard Studio Theatre, the show is cosy, with audiences intimately close to the extremely talented cast. The stage is sparsely decorated with vintage movable couches and a tall standing lamp. To the side of the stage is a quintet of brilliant musicians in sparkly hats.

As is the usual format for Arts Revue, the show consists of several comic skits interspersed with musical numbers. The underlying story of the show is, as Down The Abbott Hole would suggest, the adventures had by Alice (of Alice in Wonderland fame) as she navigates university life. It begins with a rousing song questioning the employability of Arts students called ‘A Retail Rhapsody,’ where the musical genius of Musical Director Stephen Watson becomes apparent in both the choral and instrumental arrangement. What follows are interactions with the Cheshire Cat, Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, a cameo from Stephen Fry and satirical imitations of political icons.

Highlights of the show include a genius skit called ‘Julie & Julia’ wherein our esteemed ex-Prime Minister Julia Gillard and current Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop host a cooking show concerning roast chicken with ‘liberal’ amounts of sauce. Jeremy Hoskin is fabulous in drag in ‘I Crossed the (Fabulous!) Floor’, and William Bardwell, Elizabeth Page and Geraint Schmidt recite an hilarious poem discussing the monopoly of Murdoch Press and the Australian public.

While the second act is a little bit weaker than the first, Fletcher Lodwick is a standout as a dancing giraffe singing a number to advocate safe sex, followed by a perfect portrayal of Clive Palmer as Gollum. An extremely witty re-write of Beyonce’s Halo as a ballad lamenting the limitations of Canberra’s dating scene also makes its appearance. Unfortunately, in the second act a few skits fell a little bit flat and seemed to go on for too long, and there were unlucky technical difficulties where the inaudibility of some solo-ists detracted from the genius of the lyrics they were singing. However, as this was the show’s opening night I expect it to improve continuously until closing night.

Worth noting is the fact that directors Leila and Vivek, as well as the show’s producer, Kat Carrington, all contributed to the creation of the show, whilst simultaneously being in the show themselves. In terms of costuming, numerous onesies are are made good use of, the highlight of which were a sparkly sequined pair of budgie smugglers. Anna Mitchell is adorable in her Alice in Wonderland dress and cat ears, and Lauren Brain is amazing as the stoned-out-her-mind Caterpillar. All in all, the show is a success and cleverly strings together pop culture references, musical numbers and satirical skits mocking politicians of all stripes, including protestors celebrating an ‘Unhappy Birthday’ for Cam Wilson. What really keeps the show together, however, is the undeniable energy that the cast possesses. The cast clearly enjoys performing and the amount of pleasure they derive from the show is infectious, guaranteeing the audience a fun experience.

If you’re looking for a night of fun, take a venture down the Abbott Hole: Arts Revue is running at the Courtyard Studio Theatre until closing night on the 11th of October.