It really wasn’t until blood began to fountain from Jena Ye’s thumb late in the first half of Education & Social Work Revue amid an odd sketch about rival Elizabethan gangs that I remembered where I was. The first half of this year’s production, The Land Before Timetables, was a haze of short sketches and one-liners that had the front row in clamorous laughter but were largely lost on everyone else.
Many jokes had sound premises but were executed haphazardly. The opening sketch where the mother of a teenage Julian Assange confronts him over an enormous internet bill could have been better played out for comedic effect. Much like an episode of Seinfeld where nobody makes fun of George Costanza, many sketches fell flat on their punchline despite genuine potential. The recurrent Monty Python sketch was a deft touch but had far more untapped capacity for a callback towards the end of the show. Despite that, it was easy to warm to the cast and the writing was crisp throughout the revue.
At the intermission an old and rather grizzled usher shrewdly encouraged me to “grab a few tinnies” from upstairs where I considered spending the second half of my evening at the Science Revue. I was glad I didn’t though, because the second half was much better.
The defining highlight of the night was Patrick Madden’s portrayal in drag of a middle-aged NSW Department of Education & Communities bureaucrat, whose impeccable timing, caricature and delivery had even the elderly couple next to me (who up until this point had not so much as raised an eyebrow) in stitches, as Madden elegantly soliloquized on the NSW English curriculum (years K to 10).
A Blues Clues sketch reimagined as film noir, a romance between two teachers on a school excursion, and a short but sweet encounter between Baz Luhrmann and William Shakespeare were inspired. Rounded out, the 2014 Education & Social Work Revue was unpretentious, lighthearted, and most importantly, fun.