I can only hope the audience of the 2022 USyd Womn’s Revue was COVID-free, because the Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre was filled with peals of laughter over the course of the show.
The Revue, which was directed by Leah Bruce and Rhayne Fountain and produced by Sarah Doyle and Tah Lalor, is an effectively paced, consistently funny show that kept the audience engaged for its entire 110-minute run-time.
The show’s strength lay in the absurd – with the highlights being the sketches that leaned into the silly, shocking, irreverent spirit of revues. Emily Small’s hilariously costumed William Shakespeare proudly pitching the plots of Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings to Vanshika Javeri’s unimpressed SNL writer was pretty perfect. The gradual build-up of the Bard’s immense unoriginality combined hilariously with the sheer physical comedy when the two characters interact.
Similarly, a line-up of pirates on the dating app ‘pi-rate’ testing out their most lewd pick-up lines on a scandalised Izzy Donaghue hit the mark, as did Renae Valastro’s miserable, oversharing father, trauma dumping in the lunchroom.
Amongst the absurdity, there were some moments of unexpected pathos. I’m not sure anyone in the crowd attended Womn’s Revue expecting to be touched by the love story of an alienated vegan cheese and a lonely gluten-free cracker, but the sketch elicited widespread awwws from the crowd.
If I had any critique, it would be that the Revue could have stuck its teeth into a tad more current social commentary. While jokes about sexist dickheads at bars are perennially relatable, the team’s obvious writing skill was at its best when they tackled less well-trodden material. A delightfully queer-coded sketch about the ubiquitous but deluded intimacy of exchanges of ‘babe’ between customer and server felt fresh and very funny.
Similarly, while energetically performed by the very talented Eilish Wilkinson, a musical number about voting for the Greens elicited smiles of recognition but could have been a little more cutting, given the context of a Federal Election. All the same, these are pedantic critiques — even the less novel sketches were executed to perfection.
Perhaps the overarching triumph of Womn’s Revue lay in the charisma of the cast, who were able to motivate continued audience engagement throughout the show. Georgia Lavercombe’s emotionally volatile personal trainer even managed to entice two audience members to participate in an on-stage workout. An audio-visual sketch consisting of a terrifying USyd Love Letter directed at one hapless front-row viewer elicited cackles from the surrounding audience.
Best of all, Gladys and Ruth’s patisserie — a callback sketch featuring two oddly realistic old ladies running an innuendo-filled bakery played by Lara Newman and Izzy Donaghue — foisted cake boxes containing, allegedly, asymmetrical breasts and an uncut penis on sheepish onlookers. I found myself waiting eagerly for each new Gladys and Ruth appearance.
All up, Womn’s Revue’s indefatigable capacity to elicit giggles, chortles, and wry smiles shows that the tradition of fantastic autonomous comedy at USyd is alive and well.