Review: Shane Warne: The Musical ~ theatre notes

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review: Shane Warne: The Musical

(Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm supposed to be having a break from theatre. But I'm still reviewing for the Oz...)

Shane Warne: The Musical, by Eddie Perfect. Token Events and Trafficlight. Athenaeum Theatre. December 10. Until January 11. Regal Theatre, Perth, March 18-31. Enmore Theatre, Sydney, May 15-30.

You need more front than Myers to get away with an idea like Shane Warne: The Musical. Fortunately, Eddie Perfect is your man for front.

Perfect takes no prisoners in this glorious piss-take on celebrity, cricket, Australia and musical theatre itself. His unlikely hero is a flawed Everyman (“there’s a little bit of Shane in all of us”), a suburban boy from Ferntree Gully with a golden arm and a mullet.

After he fails in his first ambition of becoming an AFL player, he lounges in a beanbag like Jabba the Hutt, eating pizzas, smoking and being nagged by his mother, until the Call comes from the Australian Institute of Sport. He loses the mullet, buffs up his spin bowling and makes it into the national side. And the rest is history.

Warnie is a kind of tragic anti-hero, wandering haplessly through the pitfalls of celebrity and tumbling into most of them. He wins his girl, and loses her. He wins the Ashes, and loses them. Along the way, he takes those diuretic pills (label warning: “may cause drowsiness or bad theatrical dream sequences”), discovers the charms of groupies in hotel rooms and accepts bribes from seedy Bollywood gamblers.

And, of course, exercises his thumb on his mobile phone (“I’ve got an erection in the frozen food section”, he bewails, in the song What an SMS I’m In).

After a few scenes, Perfect looks more like Shane Warne than Shane Warne does. He has that vertical uber-blonde hair and slightly stocky body. In one of the peculiar reflexive moments that characterise modern celebrity, Warnie was there, two rows in front of us, watching his own life written – or sung – very large.

It can’t always have been comfortable viewing, especially in the numbers that record his marriage, which go for the big musical moment and are surprisingly moving.

The show’s cheerful obscenity is shot through with Perfect’s trademark intelligence, which mercilessly skewers the absurdities of mass culture.

Besides being a fond tribute to Warnie, it’s a dizzying musical tour: the songs range from rap to gospel to rock’n’roll to Sondheim.

Perfect has surrounded himself with a top production team, including Neil Armfield, who provides the seamless direction, and Gideon Obarzanek’s snappy and hilarious choreography.

It shows what happens when the crème de la crème of contemporary Australian theatre go for the commercial throat. It’s vital, rude, smart, irresistibly funny and passionately performed. Don’t miss it.

This review is published in today's Australian.


Anonymous said...

Great review. We saw the show last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. The only thing I can add is the energy of the actors was huge. They all looked genuinely appreciative of the long applause at the end of the show compared to the more practised acceptance of long running shows.
I would almost go again.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the show, but I saw an excerpt on TV - 'Simone' - and it seemed to me these people are being lampooned for being stupid. In a kind of ugly way - am I totally wrong? Can you really satirise a person for being feeble minded and suburban? Kath and Kim does I suppose, but there's no particular sucker being skewered there...


And RIP Dorothy Porter.

Alison Croggon said...

Glad you liked it, Stephen. And K, one of the charming things about this show is that it isn't patronising or superior. That's why Shane Warne came around, I suspect, after his original alarm; it doesn't lampoon him so much as all the bullshit around him. In a funny way, it's quite respectful.

Yes, Dorothy Porter's death was a shock. Dorothy will be missed. She was a top woman.

Lee Bemrose said...

Eddie Perfect is brilliant. Looking forward to this even though I don't like musicals.

Heard about Dorothy Porter today. Weirded me out a little because at the Sydney Writers Festival several years ago I was at the launch of something I had a story in, and I looked up at one point and she was looking at me. You know when you catch someone looking at you? I wanted to go over and say hello but didn't. Me a shy nobody and her being her etc. Felt maybe there would be another time.

Sad. She wasn't old.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to seeing this when it comes to Sydney. I can't imagine how distracting it must have been with Warne in the audience. The temptation to watch his reactions must have been extreme. Yet he probably wanted to disappear -- pretend to be watching it at home on the telly -- quite the opposite of Keating's impulse in the same situation.

It's easy to say that it would be rude to watch, but of course it's only in the last century that theatre crept into darkened halls to indulge the isolated subject. In Mozart's time, we'd have been there not to watch the show, but to watch the royals watch the show. And that desire is still there ...