My realisation that this year’s Sydney University Revue was acrostically titled after the acronym USYD itself – Ungle-Bungle School’s Yearly Dramatacular – was very delayed. I voiced my epiphany with fanfare to a chorus of “oohs” from those unfortunate enough to be seated near me as we revelled in punny pleasure.
Despite the subtlety of its title, the show itself was anything but. It was brash; it was explosive. It contained an alarming number of full-length bodysuits. It was a bloody good time that demanded attention, the same way that a child might wave their arms or kick or scream – loudly, yet endearingly.
The Dramatacular opened with a musical number that transitioned wildly between classroom chant and warehouse rave, with varicoloured strobe lighting and a technical slickness that underscored a certain organised chaos. Performers jumped, skipped, and hula-hooped their way through a frenetic stage that harked back to my own kindergarten showcase (albeit with fewer lion masks and sans Brian, who tried to push me off the stage. Fuck you Brian.)
This energy was sustained, transformed, and stretched out tautly throughout the show, but never once was it completely lost. I have never seen such innocent, youthful vigour in a character as in Maddie Houlbrook-Walk’s impression of a girl who regurgitates trite political maxims and showcases her best Julia Gillard impression in an argument against her dad; nor have I been so amazed by theatrical adaptations of memes as by Alexander Shu’s Kazoo Kid (Trap Remix) contextualised within a parent-teacher interview. There was palpable tension in standout sketches such as one which featured Davis Murphy observing a suspiciously cheap schnitzel, or famously tortured writer Sylvia Plath baking chocolate chip cookies (sporting an enviable transatlantic accent!) Then there were those which teased us with quiet buildups followed by raucous resolutions like Jack Savage’s ridiculous Captain Hook spinoff, Captain Hands, which culminated with the Captain running amok amidst the rows of audience members as confetti flew into the air.
The musical numbers of this Dramatacular also deserve special mention, fluctuating between mashups of childhood theme song classics (with both Arthur and Pokemon thrown into the mix for good measure) and songs that are reminiscent in the best/worst way possible. They say that a litmus test for love is whether you can tolerate the other’s taste in music; if Clare Cavanagh and Belinda Anderson-Hunt can make me appreciate The Potbelleez’ Don’t Hold Back, they can make me do anything.
Not all sketches shone as brightly as the others – my only explanation for that is to attribute it to the very nature of the show as a “best of the best” of every other 2015 revue, so that even the funnier sketches were sometimes overshadowed or perhaps, slightly overwrought compared to their original counterparts. Nevertheless, I exited the theatre feeling rejuvenated, filled with childlike optimism, and with All-Star stuck in my head.
The Ungle-Bungle School’s Yearly Dramatacular was rambunctious yet sincere, qualities that I hope to see replicated in 2016’s revue season.