Review: ANU Arts Revue 2012

I sometimes wonder what Law, Science, Engineering, and Business students think of their unruly counterparts: those poor souls among us who have chosen to pursue an arts degree. Whatever stereotypes or caricatures they may hold about the typical arts student, I suspect that the 2012 ANU Arts Revue confirmed every last one.

The moment the audience walked into the Drama Lab, they were treated to a hazy black stage, the sound of shrieking monkeys and primal jungle music. The lights faded and the insanity began.

The revue kicked off with a medley of Disney songs, their lyrics butchered and revamped to resonate more with the lives of undergraduates. Ah yes, they must have paid a fortune in royalties to the Walt Disney Corporation.  This medley introduced us to what was easily the best thing about the show: its all-singing and all-dancing cast – an explosive troupe of triple threats.

After this initial number, the show’s Disney theme was all but dropped in favour of a lively slew of comedic sketches which poked fun at anything and everything they could get their hands on, and a series of musical parodies that exploited Section 41A of the Australia Copyright Act 1968 to its full potential.

The highlight of the Revue was undoubtedly its sharply choreographed, slick musical numbers such as a vitriolic jab at the Vice Chancellor’s funding cuts set to the tune of “Big Spender”, or a College of Asia and the Pacific recruitment song set to The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea”, complete with a giant dancing lobster.

However, some of the revue’s most imaginative skits could have benefitted from a little polishing.

Skits such as an AA style group therapy session for Disney villains, or an episode of Play School set in an Orwellian dystopia were conceptually clever but fell flat in their execution.

The bulk of jokes were inevitably cheap shots at all too easy targets such as Australian politicians, ANUSA meetings, Julian Assange, and nutty Marxist lecturers. Nevertheless, when you are watching something as surreal as Sylvia Plath screaming for someone to turn the oven on while Gina Rinehart tries to recite poetry etched on her buttocks, what’s there to complain about? When the cast is clearly having a hell of a lot of fun, the audience can’t help but enjoy themselves as well.

It should also be mentioned that the show felt a little scattergunned at times, jumping from scenario to scenario with little build-up or anticipation, and ending all too abruptly. But these are flaws that are inherent in the structure of any multi-act revue. The 2012 Arts Revue never outstayed its welcome and left its audience wanting more.

The Arts Revue was ultimately two hours well spent. Director Milly Cooper and Musical Director Casey White have crafted a well written spectacle with sharp-witted comedic sensibilities.

It is reassuring to know that in spite of budget cuts, administrative reshuffles, shaky employment prospects, and countless other perils, our humble arts degree students still know how to put on a damn good show.