Review: 'The Void' (Sydney Uni Revue)
By Noah Vaz
The Sydney Uni Revue is a revered USYD institution. With each year that passes the Revue, which I had the pleasure of seeing yesterday evening, acts as a fulcrum in the revue season. It provides both the summation of the hilarity, colour and brilliance of last year’s revues; and also generates excitement, and lights the proverbial Olympic flame for the coming 2019 revue season.
However, much like Doctor Who, each annual USYD revue, while united by its same hallowed tradition, brings something new and different each time.
This 2019 iteration is the product of theatrical powerhouse, Kate Walder, and her assistant director, revue veteran, Jestika Chand.
The vision and branding of this year’s show ‘The Void’ immediately highlights a departure from previous Sydney Uni revues. Far from the comedic branding that as used to form previous years’ marketing, this show brings something eerie and different. The rhetorical questions, edgy and absurdist vibes seem something out of a MCA A5 tourist guide or a Soundcloud bio. Though, props must be given to producer Aaron Cornelius, another USYD revue oldie-but-goldie, for a phresh take on marketing and promotion.
This year’s review format sought to change older revue features, especially in the way of transitions, its distinct Absurdist humour, and its paucity of musical numbers. While most revues struggle to find any through line at all, this revue had a clear one. However, it struggled in its execution at times — clumsily stumbling from one skit to the other, often at the expense of a good punch. Its transitions felt forced; and its cast, often having to change to a completely new character in a new skit on stage, looked relatively uncomfortable. What were original killer skits in previous revues were duds in their revised format, sacrificing pithy and punchy scripts for fidelity to the Absurdist motif of ‘the Void’. The direction of the show unfortunately wasted its talented cast – it was not like any other revue I’ve ever seen before, in fact, it was hardly a revue at all.
However, despite these structural hiccups, the show was brought to life by its energetic and excellent cast —some in the early stages of their revue journeys, and other returning gems of the stage, like Abbey Lenton. Special props must be handed to some exceptional actors. Sophie Strykowski killed it as a sleepover mum, complemented by the brilliant and believable Alison Cooper. Kate Wilkins was a highlight in every skit she was in, with her comedic body language, and variety of accents bringing the audience to roaring laughter each time she was on stage. The standout was definitely Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather, whose commitment to character, electric energy, and sheer hilarity were, in my opinion, one of the show’s greatest assets.
The best skits included a reprise of Queer Revue’s ‘Gays can’t drive’, and Donna Rohani’s ‘Laughing without smiling’ (You’ve got to see it to get it). Musically, the show was bereft of my favourite revue staple – popular musical parodies. However, what it lacked in that manner, it made up for in a interesting musical motif, written together by Kate Walder, Jeremy Kindl, and Elliot Ulm.
Elliot’s stellar tenor pipes broke up the monotony of successive skits, and led the Absurdist tone of the show well — ending the show on the oddest, and sweetest of notes in a Sinatra number. Additional kudos to the band, and in particular the strings, who maintained the bone-chilling, Dexter-like tension throughout the show. Set design, by Antony Youssef was minimalist and aided in the feeling of being smack-bang in the middle of a suburban dystopia. The lighting design complemented this well, though be wary if blue lights and the occasional strobes are not your thing.
The show left me a bit confused, but I was overall pleased by the excellence of the cast. These talented performers should be proud of their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to character.