When was the last time you felt like a real party pooper? You know, when you’re sitting there rigid with uncertainty over why your mates are splitting their sides over something you just don’t get. At all.
Such was my dilemma last week when I went to The Lyin’ Queen at the Sydney Opera House. Hyped to the max (brilliant, hilarious and utterly ridiculous) and endorsed by a sound-of-mind mate (you’ll pee your pants!) my expectations were huge.
It got one thing right, it was utterly ridiculous. But not in a clever satirical way, this was puerile, schoolboy humour, a delicious irony considering it’s pantomime pitched at grown ups.
Trevor Ashley returns in his role as Gaye Wraye, a broke Home and Away soap star who accepts a role from Dr Richard Rabbitborough (Todd McKenney) to star in a commercial for a new theme park. Shannon Dooley, Brendan Irving and Shauntell Benjamin join them on the Jurassic Park island, which is plagued by dinosaurs, an electric storm and a huge inflatable penis belonging to King Schlong, the resident gorilla. Naturally, the good doctor is evil personified, it’s pantomime after all, but that’s where the limits should have been set. The attempts at satire just didn’t work, a disappointing surprise considering co-writer Phil Scott’s pedigree (think The Wharf Review).
Rather than focussing on absolute clangers, and we’ve been spoilt for choice this year with celebs and pollies mastering the art of stupidity or bad behaviour, it’s like Ashley and Scott drew up a list of as many famous names they could think of and then lamely tried to lampoon them. Opportunities were lost and others just didn’t gel.
Take the pot shot at Geoffrey Rush? He was vindicated more than a year ago, winning a huge payout over defamatory articles written about him. Lindy Chamberlain? Also wrongly convicted four decades ago, and released from prison. Why have a dazzling opening number featuring a dingo with a baby in its mouth when the saga played out before the majority of the Lyin’ Queen’s audience was born, or Steve Irwin stumbling around the stage harpooned by a stingray? Are these iconic incidents in Australia’s history? You betcha. Are they worthy of satire, or at all relevant and funny today? Not a bit. Let’s face it, if you’re going to take the mickey out of someone, it’s got to be sharp, so finely honed even the lift of a performer’s eyebrow can trigger hysteria. But sadly there were very few laugh out loud moments for me.
BUT…. while I was sitting there almost stony-faced, (I did giggle a few times and enthusiastically tapped my foot to some fabulous music), my mate, a theatre aficionado, laughed like a hyena throughout, as did many others. Perhaps, I was the lame one, the weird and unfunny one, the party pooper. Was my funny bone still in lockdown? Or, was the opening-night audience, largely made up of Ashley die-hard fans, so starved for entertainment that farts, poo, piss-takes and a giant schlong were all that was needed to trigger their funny bones.
The Lyin’ Queen is at the Sydney Opera House until December 12. Tickets from $79 at sydneyoperahouse.com.