The 2016 ACAR Revue: The Presidential Race is a bold-statement from the Autonomous Collective Against Racism, pushing the boundaries of both comedy and racial politics. This particular revue arises from the longstanding tradition of University of Sydney revues, which have often been embedded in white male-dominated circles. This show is not only a platform to showcase the talent of non-white performers, but also challenges the institution of Revues. Though political satire forms a loose throughline for the show, some of the shows strongest moments were observations on the quirky or mundane. Early on in the show, Angela Prendergast’s character struggles to distinguish between babies and baked goods. This sketch was a crowd favourite.
The show opened with an ensemble number parodying Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” that displayed the vocal strengths of Bridget Harilaou and great physical embodiment of Clinton, Sanders and Trump. The political satire in the show was often quite direct and could’ve benefited from a subtler approach. However, the cast’s charm and the commitment to character made these sketches highly enjoyable. Brigitte Samaha’s portrayal of a persistent Malcolm Turnbull, who reappears throughout the show, was a joy to watch. Later on, Ann Ding as Mike Baird was equal parts silly and biting and earned a well-deserved applause break.
The most memorable moments came from deeply personal scenes, as the cast joked about the struggles of second-generation immigrant children. The show tapped into the audience’s psyche, as the cast lampooned the creepiness of ASIO, the not so subtle discrimination at airports, and overbearing parents. Jestika Chand shone, providing a real onstage presence as she took on various parental roles and sung alongside Ann Ding their technological qualms. Adam Ursino and Richard Wu played off one another incredibly well, as they explored issues of the fetishisation of Asian women. The contrast of energy between these two was great to watch. Later on, as Adam comes out to his ethnic parents, the audience is presented with a fun playful take on this situation.
Many members of the cast were inexperienced and new to sketch comedy going into the show. This meant that some sketches were unclear and the occasional jokes did not land. It would have been good to see the show push more boundaries with form and explore new ways to take their sketches. However, the cast’s talent and their enjoyment of performing greatly outweighed these minor mistakes. This was a show made up of great acting and writing, tight choreography and well-directed AVs. The final product was a sketch show that demonstrated the ACAR Revues ability to present important social and political satire but also solidified their position in the tradition of revues. The ACAR Revue proved that it was the perfect show to launch the season. It is sure to continue growing as a powerful comedy vehicle. Cool.