REVIEW: Queer Revue succeeds in the revolution with Liberte, Egalite, and a Firing Squad
As the final revue in USYD’s inaugural Identity Revue season, Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad is definitely the rousing finale we deserved. Everything about the show reflects its theme of the revolutionary underground, from the descent into the dungeon-like Reginald Theatre to the two imposing figures armed with pink AK-47’s watching as you enter.
Like something out of Dickens, we open with Cory Bernadi (performed with brilliant defiance by Tom Mendes) forced into a chair to witness the sketch comedy that follows. Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad is framed as a kangaroo court designed to silence, what director Will Edwards describes as, “conservative opinions”. What ultimately unfolds is a brilliant satire of contemporary Australia, with enough casual asides to provide a breather from the politics. It’s incredibly well constructed, almost faultlessly so.
Above: Cast members (from left to right) Harriet Jane, Grace Franki and Lizzy Blower in promotional material for Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad
Each cast member displays great comedic talent. Each sketch has a solid idea that gives the cast something to bite into. Harriet Jane’s bee queen early in Act I, comes to first to mind as a highlight, where she tries to diffuse a communist uprising in the beehive. As an incredibly talented ensemble cast, I’d be remiss to not praise at least a few other actors in Edwards’ troupe, including Bella Devine-Poulos (who, in one sketch, addresses the logical fallacies inherent in virgin sacrifice) to Grace Franki (who, in the performance I watched, shared one sketch with mother Deborah Franki). As would be expected from a show with with such revolutionary undertones, Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad isn’t afraid to indulge in political satire - culminating in Rory Nolan marching through the audience as a messianic Bill Shorten to bring the revolution to its completion. For someone who indulges in binge-watching Saturday Night Live for its political satire, these splashes were particularly delightful.
The highlight of the evening for its already howling audience was when the show took a quick break from politics to present a brilliantly orchestrated parody of Magic Mike. What begins as a racy strip show seques into brilliant absurdity with the appearance of a well-designed Mike Wazowski to chants of “Mike Wazowski!”, sampled from Monster’s Inc (2001). As would be expected with a returning director like Edwards at the helm, 2016 Queer Revue has wisely spread its budget for maximum effect.
Is the show faultless, though? Yes and no.
It becomes apparent that the show’s strength is its sketch comedy which, although varied, forms almost the majority of the show. Outside of the Magic Mike parody, a few voice-over skits and a triumphant musical finale (a parody of I Will Survive, performed brilliantly by Lizzy Blower), Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad rarely shies away from its obvious strength. This is not exactly a variety show of comedy, dance and music.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. The Reginald isn’t a large theatre and is made even smaller by an omnipresent throne, adorned with revolutionary iconography. This isn’t a space favourable towards large set-pieces, and with the space he’s given, Edwards does some brilliant work. The cast will, when the sketch requires it, move through the audience, making the show that much more of an engaging experience.
Ultimately, Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad is a show swaggering with confidence in its satirical chops - and it shows in a big way. By itself, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening with strong direction and performances from a cast with incredible comedic talent. As the conclusion to the first Identity Revue season, well, we definitely couldn’t have asked for a stronger, finer finish.
Liberte, Egalite, Firing Squad is currently being performed at the Seymour Centre until June 11th