Kicking off the first ever University of Sydney Union Identity Revue Season, the stakes were high for the Autonomous Collective Against Racism Revue’s second ever production, A Presidential Race. Moving the show from the more informal Red Rattler Theatre to the admittedly better performance space of the King Street Theatre, what followed was a string of excellent performances, slapstick comedy, social observations and a high bar for the rest of the revues to strive for.
In line with the theme of the show, primary focus was on the US Presidential election as well as the Australian election, with a variety of outrageously original skits and twists on subjects a little closer to home scattered throughout. The first act opened with a genius twist on Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party In The USA’ sung by Bridget Harilaou as white feminist Hillary Clinton, while caricatures of Trump and Sanders fought over the microphone. Fortunately there were more iterations of these same personas to come.
Setting the scene for acute commentary on politics and brilliant comedic depictions of real life characters, the show ran smoothly and brought some of the most original sketches in recent history. One skit saw three women trying to find baby names that were more “authentically third world” than ‘India’, while an AV sketch positioned the British Museum and its curator as a member of A&E’s Hoarders. Unsurprisingly, the songs that were some of the biggest crowd pleasers, with an ASIO edition of ‘Hey There Delilah’, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ parody for all the die-hard musical fans out there, and an ode to being the child of overbearing parents in a version of Adele’s ‘Hello’, but this time “from the inside”, receiving the loudest rounds of applause.
As with any show, the cast makes or breaks a production, and the acting here was pitch perfect from all performers. With a lack of male talent in the cast, the women of colour shone and showcased their astoundingly many talents throughout the revue. Special mentions go to Angela Prendergast, who had outstanding stage presence and stole the show as a toddler possessed to do the running man challenge and will make you rethink how you see cupcakes and babies. Ann Ding’s varied performances, particularly as Mike Baird, were one for the books, and Brigitte Samaha’s Malcolm Turnbull was an icon throughout. Jestika Chand, Richard Wu and Swetha Das were also first-rate among the talented cast. The directing team including Radha Wahyuwidayat, Jestika Chand and Michael Sun ensured that set changes were seamless and the use of lighting and sound was solid throughout. Atia Rahim’s choreography was also noteworthy, especially for the opening number.
Naturally some sketches fell flat and the second act was too short and featured much fewer laughs. Many jokes exceeded their punchline and could have done with better editing in the writer’s room – sadly one smart skit in a Red Cross blood donation room ended in a way that can only be described as lazy. Likewise the content throughout the show lacked clever commentary and was neither as sharp nor witty as it could have been at times, especially given the revue’s political theme.
But these criticisms highlight the issues that were few and far between. A Presidential Race successfully pleased the audience and gave voice to a marginalised group on campus that is missing from mainstream revues through the year. It shamed racism and the people who benefit from White supremacy, as well as brought the political headlines to life on stage with comedic twists and faultless depictions. As a revue, it ranks high on the list of student performances on campus. And as the opener for the first ever Identity Revue Season, it struck the perfect note.