Looking for tasteless jokes during revue season is a lot like spotting Bintang singlets in summer – certain months just come with their own unique and compulsory strains of awfulness. But Queer Revue 2014 is the blessed and delightful exception to the rule. Directors Mikaela Bartels and Hayden Aitken seem to have grasped the golden tenet of satire – it’s only funny when you belittle those in power rather than those without it. The Nightmare Before Mardi Gras is clever, insightful and righteously subversive. In my latest attempt to publish a sentence that finally arrests the beating of Fred Nile’s heart, this year’s Queer Revue was probably your best bet for good clean family fun.
We have a chorus line of jubilant, crowing Liberals in supplication to Margaret Thatcher. A disconcertingly real parody ad that casts Eden Tollis as a maniacally happy Michael Spence (“You are all roaches beneath my feet guys! Roaches!”). And crowd-favourite Shevvi Barrett-Brown as a transit officer who thinks they’re Humphrey Bogart. Queer Revue understands that rather than turning the punchline into a premise and piling on absurdity from there, it pays to set everything up before knocking it down. There’s no fun going bowling if you start with all the pins blown to smithereens.
It’s also refreshing how the cast takes stale sketch-comedy gender tropes and blitzes them wonderfully apart. Sarah Jamieson imagines Marie Curie as the madcap offsider to her fretful husband Pierre, inexplicably boganified and taping radium to a super-soaker. Georgia Kriz and Lauri Hopkins are droller than droll as two Aussie cis-men just having a wholesome Aussie Man-Chat™. Apropos of nothing, this year’s Revue also contains possibly the world’s most Charlie Kaufman-esque orgy joke – a delicately structured, multi-layered, fourth-wall destroying thing of obscene and meta beauty. It was a full-frontal reminder that bawdiness runs in this revue’s DNA, despite some inebriated audience members reacting poorly to earlier crude jokes. Bartels and Aitken should also be wary of accidentally pouring scorn over unintended targets, like when an otherwise perfectly executed sketch about two gay dads ridiculing their son’s heterosexual marriage rendered one of the night’s standout female performers as just a speechless reaction-face there to cop the flak.
With no faculty to back it, Queer Revue is sadly one of the university’s least funded revues. There are but two jets of dry ice in the whole production, squeezed out for maximum efficiency like someone trying to make a Coke with their last canister of Sodastream. And yet, it doesn’t matter. A small budget can’t conceal intelligence and consistency. This isn’t the little-revue-that-could, it’s the revue that doesn’t really give a fuck because it knows it can.