Experimental Theatre

Last night, I embarked on a two-fold experiment, venturing to the Seymour Centre for a solo night at the theater. The primary goal was to determine whether I could navigate a nighttime theatrical outing independently and, secondly, to see if the latest installment of the long-standing “Wharf Revue” was any good.

Despite its shift from “The Wharf” to the Seymour Centre, the review has remained a stalwart presence in Sydney’s theater scene for over 30 years. Maybe longer. It carries a discernible left-wing political bias, cleverly documenting the year’s topical issues through song. The evening’s performance, featuring parodies of figures like Trump, Biden, Albanese, Dutton, The Queen, and King Charles, interwove laughter with poignant moments, such as the rendition of “Bad Moon Rising” addressing this year’s Yes/No referendum.

The musical repertoire of the show spans various genres, extending beyond popular tunes to encompass opera and musical theater. The night featured a very humorous “German Opera” piece and a brilliant take on Stephen Sondheim’s music, transforming the lyrics of “Ladies Who Lunch” into a narrative about women overlooked in Australian politics.

However, a persistent criticism in recent years has been the underrepresentation of women in the cast. While this may have played a role in the show’s relocation from the Sydney Wharf Theatre, it continues to enjoy popularity both in Sydney and on its regional NSW tour.

I revisited the show after a number of years absence on my part, after stumbling upon a podcast interview with Jonathan Biggins, a key figure in the production. The podcast, hosted by Peter Eayers, delves into Australian theater—a great listen for those interested in the subject. https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode?id=324855

The theatre audience skewed older, with no one seemingly under 50, making me one of the younger attendees. Conversations with fellow theatergoers revealed a consensus that a 6.30 Tuesday show might not be the ideal “hot date” for younger audiences, despite the evident enjoyment reflected in the laughter and applause. I enjoyed it very much.

The view from seat C43 at the Seymour Centre of the 2023 Wharf Revue.

Beyond the entertainment, the night held a personal experiment for me—to attend a nighttime show solo, managing the theater commute independently. The experience yielded valuable lessons. Despite steep and narrow stairs at the threatre, the kindness of fellow patrons and attentive theater staff ensured a smooth journey to my aisle seat in Row C, Seat 43.

Noticing my prosthesis and crutch, one of the theatre attendants came over, asked me what assistance I might need, and referenced the railing on the left or right hand side of the theatre.

The railing was pretty necessary, as the theatre stairs at the main York Theatre are quite steep and narrow. By myself, I slowly made my way down the stairs, until finally making it to the stage. From there, I walked over to my seat in Row C, Seat 43. As I made my way a number of people asked if they could help. “Yes, you could hold my wine. I’m afraid of dropping it”, I half-joked. The wine was passed from person to person, along with a smile and similar good wishes. When I was looking for a night to attend, the deciding factor was accessibility, as C43 afforded me an aisle seat close to the front of the theatre.

At the shows end, I got up as quickly as I could, and as soon as I could, I retraced my steps. Going back up the stairs was much easier than going town, especially without the risk of dropping my wine.

The journey home included a strategic decision to opt for a Newtown-bound bus rather than crossing the very busy “City Road” alone at night. A well-timed arrival of the 352 bus in Newtown got me back home.

This solo venture augurs well for future outings, such as my planned attendance at the December performance of 80s/90s singer-songwriter Lloyd Cole at Angel Place. While major concerts with large crowds might not be on the immediate horizon, I always think you shoud never say never.

7 Replies to “Experimental Theatre”

  1. I think Melbourne might be lacking at the moment with left leaning theatre. I think some here might be quite envious of its long running success. I can remember Jonathon Biggens’ face but not much else.

    It’s great that you were able to attend the event unassisted aside from the kindness of strangers and the training of staff.

    1. Maybe it will visit Melbourne, also? There’s nothing terribly “Sydney” about it, with pretty universal Australian humour. If not, Melbourne people, it’s over to you :) Chatting with a colleague today, and she said she also enjoyed the show. So, another vote of confidence. She thought the Biden parody was very funny.

  2. Hi James, great to read about your successful solo night out. Must try and catch the show myself this year. It is always a laugh. Maybe it should now be called The Seymour Review?
    I used to produce Jonathan a long time ago when he did Evenings on ABC Radio Sydney (it used to be plain old 2BL back then). He’s a fantastic person to work with – clever, funny, creative, generous. Cheers, Tony
    (P.S. It’s Biggins, not Biggens)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: