Sunday, 15 March 2015

Once Were Leaders, 13 March 2015

An Evening With Max Gillies; co-created by Max Gillies and Andrew Barker 
ANZ Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne, until 28 March 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on 13 March 2015
Full review also published in H-Sun online on Mon 16 March 2015 and thereafter in print. KH 
(Oops! Sorry. I forgot to upload the full review 10 days ago. See it below now. KH)
Max Gillies is one of our greatest, Australian political satirists and, after 40+ years of lampooning national and international leaders, his depictions are just as acerbic and disturbingly accurate.  

Once Were Leaders does not feature the elaborate wigs and make-up seen in Gillies’ previous live productions or in The Gillies Report from the 1980s.

It is a blend of political commentary and analysis of satire that are illustrated by a retrospective of Gillies’ most memorable portrayals of leaders.

Apart from the insertion of snippets of video, Gillies does this without costumes and prosthetics, but by shifting from an easy, conversational tone into his notable speeches, written by former collaborators and masters of language, Don Watson, Patrick Cook and Guy Rundle.

Gillies describes our recent political history as suffering an extended period of leadership deficit that is epitomised by our current leader, Tony Abbott, with his three-word slogans and political gaffes.

Gillies’ targets include a chronological, fools’ gallery of larger-than-life government leaders, starting with Robert Menzies with his beetle-like eyebrows and the ludicrously big-eared and babbling Billy McMahon.

He moves to Gough Whitlam with his resonant voice and smug attitude, Andrew Peacock’s orange tan and Malcolm Fraser’s awkwardness and patrician tones.

The parade comtinues with Bob Hawke’s famous laughter, flimsy protests and shallow apologies, Ian Richardson’s back-room backstabbing, Kevin Rudd’s weird hand gestures and desire for the leadership.

There are also detours to a clown-like Ronald Reagan, supercilious Maggie Thatcher and the Queen, in her 300-room, ivory tower.

Revisiting a flash of brilliance, Gillies ends with his depiction of a seemingly bumbling John Howard wearing a dressing gown and seated in a 1950s lounge room, exemplifying backward thinking government.

“Take a step forward into the past,” say the lyrics of the folksy song we hear, but Gillies’ satire reminds us that leaders should be taking us boldly into the future with integrity, passion and honesty.

By Kate Herbert

No comments:

Post a Comment