An annual highlight of ANU’s arts calendar – the Arts Revue for 2016 – went into the arena with the title FUN NATION, responding to the meteoric rise on the political stage of that ginger sheila Pauline Hanson (again). Appropriately, she has been the star of much of the show’s brilliant marketing and has her very own recurring segment in the show. Perhaps the writers and directors – double act Matt Barton and Matt Rogers – should have spent more time thinking about someone else during production, as FUN NATION is a bit too similar to the bogan human torch herself: outrageous, odd (funny) and offensive certainly, but in need of some refinement all the same.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of the Revue, it is essentially a bone-and-flesh Robot Chicken, with some university-specific jokes and musical numbers that parody recent news stories, public figures and the general absurdity of modern life. The main symptoms of many revues (and skit shows in general – such as The Wedge) are of course the problems that arise due to the lack of overarching cohesion across the show. Some witty and well-acted skits are interspersed with dross, and nothing much links them together. This is a problem that FUN NATION possessed, though with a greater strike rate than most revues, as I for one wished for a greater sense of structure. The end result was a waterslide of meme-ish bits that passed by quickly, producing some amusement but lacking in deep impression – which might be just the thing some people were looking for. Perhaps a more apt title would have been FRUS TRATION.
The show’s great strength was in the energy of the cast – there were standouts, with plenty of natural comic timing and some kickass accents, as well as the mostly witty writing. The skit involving the unusual life of the mind of Kevin Rudd during the U.N. General Secretary lark was brilliantly and cheekily conceived, as were the reliably funny digs at the various ANU colleges (poor Griffin) and the merits of studying Law. Some skits, however, either went on past their use-by date or were never edible to begin with, as a meta-moment involving the racial casting of the show was just uncomfortable at best, and some of the staging of the musical numbers was uninspired, though well sung by the cast.
Nonetheless, I can say that FUN NATION did make you chuckle some. Admittedly, seeing a Revue in a packed audience is a whole heap of fun, involving laughing along with your mates to the absurdities on stage, which I am certain occurred over the duration of the Revue’s performances