Promising to be “hilarious, morally instructive and unprecedentedly short”, Law Revue 2018: Austin Powers of Attorney achieves perhaps the most impressive of those claims, clocking in at just under two hours.
Law Revue is very much written for its audience: the show is laden with legal jargon, law school in-jokes and a hefty dose of political commentary. For the first time in my memory, however, the sketches are almost as funny as they are clever.
High points of the show include an ‘Anonymous’ marking sketch, a rap about mansplaining and a competition between law students during an open-book exam. The xenophobic whale is also an audience favourite. Admittedly, an a capella number about the tribulations of judicial review was lost on me barely a year after completing my administrative law unit, and a Roland Barthes sketch was too niche to land. But for the most part, the sketches strike a great balance between funny for a law student and funny for everyone else.
Director Lucy Lester reprises her signature role as Pauline Hanson and Director Tom Davidson-Mcleod shines as an exasperated Minister for Agriculture in some of the strongest performances of the night. For the most part, however, the directors step back and let the cast shine. Dale Scutts’ physical comedy is exceptional and Coco Frolich’s commitment to each of her varied roles is incredible. All the lead singers have breathtakingly impressive pipes.
The sketches are consistently high calibre, but as the night progresses, the formulaic production choices make all the sketches start to blur together. The first act is comprised of six brackets of three sketches, broken up by alternating voice-overs and band interludes, with all-in musical numbers at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. All sketches revolve around a small group of people exchanging witty banter on stage, sometimes finished with a punchline.
The staging choices don’t help. Throughout the show, three sketches at a time are set up on the stage, two of them waiting while the third plays. This saves time in transitions, which are impressively tight, but also results in actors frozen down-stage, obscuring the sketch happening behind them. All sketches are trapped in a 2×2 circle of light that makes them feel static and sameish. Many lighting fades are too slow, leaving the performers and audience stuck in awkward silences.
The choreography, however, was standout: from jazz to a whiplash-inducing cheerleading sequence, the dance numbers were energetic and varied, making excellent use of a large cast and the round stage. The choreography adds layers of comedic depth to each musical number—particularly in the ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ parody. Even through a string of three consecutive musical numbers the styles did not bleed or grow dull, and remained a standout feature of cast’s ensemble work.
There are three Disney parodies of variable quality. While the opening number featuring Peter Dutton singing ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ has quite literally been done before, ‘South China Sea’ starring Jeffrey Khoo as a manic Xi Jinping/Sebastian the Crab is a triumphant end to the first act. This is Law Revue at its best: biting but accessible political commentary dazzlingly delivered.
Sean Perry has done an incredible job as both singing- and music-director. The seven-piece stage band is sharp and energetic, and fills the theatre from walk-in to bows. However, their undeniable talent is wasted on a shopping list of greatest hits including ‘September’ and ‘Mr Brightside’ among other equally basic choices. The notable exception of a playful rendition of a ringtone-cum-jazz number is well rewarded by audience applause—it would have been nice to see more risks like this.
Law Revue 2018 was a triumph in unexpected ways—but could have pushed the envelope even further. Law Revue’s comedy is undeniably solid but unadventurous; it scores political points and makes clever rhymes, but rarely takes time to revel in funny moments. The moments when this year’s show departed from precedent were its most compelling. Here’s to even more obiter next year.
Law Revue is showing at the Seymour Centre at 7 pm on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 August.
Directors: Lucy Lester and Tom Davidson-McLeod
Producers: Isobel McDonald and Samantha Ryu
Assistant Directors: Floyd Alexander-Hunt, Stephanie Noronha, Noah Vaz
Choreographers: Maddy De Dassel, Maddie Scott, Dale Scutts
Music and Singing Director: Sean Perry
Crew Manager: Calida Tang