Mike McLeish was terrific as Keating. From the moment he entered the stage from stage-left, with all of the cool of a member of the Hollywood Rat-pack, to the more physical moments of an energetic performance, he was totally believable as “Keating”. As well as the physical similarity, I also got the impression he understood Keating, meaning he portrayed the bravado, the frailty, the arrogance, all of the many elements that make up Keating’s obviously complex character.
On the other hand, Terry Serio played Hawke and Howard as caricatures: the ever-grinning, ear-tugging Hawke and the buffoon-like war-mongering Howard. There’s a particularly memorable scene as Howard takes on a variety of costumes, including jogger’s outfit, army fatigues, and moleskins. There’s also a moment when Howard and Keating come into the audience to shake hands… and while the audience can’t wait to shake hands with Keating, they recoiled in touching Howard.
But that shouldn’t surprise. This was, after all, an audience which I assume was made up largely of Keating supporters, the so-called “intellectual elite”. I spotted, for example, former ALP numbers man, Stephen Loosely in the audience. But that shouldn’t be a bad thing, as I thought the play had something for everyone.
And while Keating emerges as a “hero”, there are lots of political jibes from both the left and right. There’s a love song, for example, between Gareth Evans and Cheryl Kernot that had everyone in stitches. Eddie Perfect was hillarious as a Rocky Horror-like Alexander Downer in drag.
There were also some wonderfully tender moments, such as the song Keating sang based on his famous Redfern speech, acknowleding the Aboriginal history of Australia.
It was a hugely entertaining, funny, and well-acted and performed show by a very talented cast, and if you have more than a passing interest in Australian politics you’re bound to enjoy it.
P.S. The SMH has confirmed what we thought: Andrew Peacock was in the audience.