While a one man show about the musings of a former politician may sound uninviting to many, there are few politicians, nay few people, with the wit or humour of Paul Keating. While the man himself made no appearance, his most experienced impersonator, Johnathan Biggins, once again took on the task of embodying Keating’s spirit in this 90 minute production. Biggins, known for his work on The Wharf Revue, brings great charm to the Keating character – while physical resemblance may not be uncanny, his mannerisms and expression certainly are. The script, also written by Biggins, is obviously fictionalised, but carries the acerbic wit that could only be matched by Keating himself. Better known amongst millennials for his quick quips and YouTube insult compilations than any of his policies, Keating’s enduring media presence has ensured his one-liners still make headlines to this day. While the inspiration for the show may be Keating, all credit goes to Biggins for not only his wonderful portrayal, but a sharp script that had the audience beside themselves with laughter. The mood was electric, and the gasps of amused incredulity from the older audience members during particular barbs were also a source of delight. It’s always a sign of a good night of comedy when you have that slight ache in your cheeks from extended periods of smiling.
I’d be lying if I said every reference was perfectly understood, but there was more than enough modern and topical fodder to engage this late 90’s baby. While many of the events discussed may predate my birth, a good jab at Harold Holt or Bob Hawke can be enjoyed by aspiring pundits of all ages. That being said, the scattered musical numbers fell a little flat. While I appreciate the reference to Keating’s love of music and tendency to break out into song, the renditions didn’t quite work with the flow of the rest of Biggins’ performance. It was the only time in the entire evening that the audience was less responsive, but all in all, they were still enjoyable.
Whether you’re a Keating die-hard or someone just looking for a laugh, I would definitely recommend The Gospel According to Paul. First and foremost, it’s a hilarious piece of work, but you may even find you learn something along the way.
The Gospel According to Paul is playing at the Canberra Theatre Centre until Sunday 31st March