ACAR Revue: politics and punchlines

Millie Roberts was invited to imagine a world where “white people were not nice”.

Cast of The Presidential Race: ACAR Revue 2014 Cast of The Presidential Race: ACAR Revue 2014

The Autonomous Collective Against Racism deliver their second annual revue on a high note. As one of the four identity revues offered in the 2016 season, The Presidential Race is devised, directed and performed solely by USyd people of colour.

The opening night started on a point of conflict, with a minor disagreement over where the Acknowledgement of Country was allowed to take place in the foyer. Director Radha Wahyuwidayat was initially rebuffed by theatre management but, with encouragement from the audience, respects to traditional Gadigal owners were eventually communicated as planned, establishing a mood of solidarity and empowerment that was continued in the revue itself.

As the name suggests, a good portion of the production takes a crack at the candidates of America’s upcoming election, as well as some of our own home-grown politicians. But don’t be fooled, The Presidential Race is riddled with accessible references to pop culture, contemporary news stories and memes. It feels like no one escapes the Collective’s wide-ranging digs that variously target reverse racism, pet insurance, baked goods and Cher – played phenomenally by Ann Ding.

In a stellar showcase of singing, dancing, acting and instrumental talent, the standout of the revue is Jestika Chand, who by the end of the night had managed to send the audience into fits of laughter just by entering the stage.  Other notable performances include Sophia Chung’s rendition of “Hey There Delilah,” Swetha Das’ Sarah Palin impression, Bridget Harilaou’s guitar riffs and a racial fetish skit carried out by Adam Ursino and Richard Wu.

The show is humble, yet doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. Lyrics were forgotten, wrong exits were taken, notes were missed and props were viciously knocked off. Despite this, the actors pushed through and for the most part maintained composure; their own failures to keep a straight face added extra comic relief. The Presidential Race is clearly an amateur production, but is all the better for it.

While some of the gags are hit and miss, and the production could be cut shorter, the revue was nevertheless the perfect balance of wit, light-heartedness and provocation. Considering that one of the actors was unable to perform at the last minute, the rest of the crew banded together to present a coherent and unmissable show.

The Presidential Race is a colourful yet darkly humoured satire. It tickles your funny bones, makes you cringe, provokes thought and commands full attention over the two hour running time.   

They’ve won my vote.