I
can’t find even a mildly critical review anywhere despite the consensus
of my friends that Gillies has mostly missed his targets this time
around and this show suffers badly by comparison with the brilliant Your Dreaming (2001) which was also written by Guy Rundle.

The
characterisations are very sloppy. Alexander Downer is not a lazy
stumblebum as portrayed in the show’s weakest moment. He is indeed
pompous, patronising, “egregious” and deceitful but Gillies/Rundle fail
to nail him for any of these follies and serve us up instead an
unrecognisable straw man in a reefer- jacket and funny wig, as if the
costume is meant to say it all. Think harder Guy.

Likewise the
appalling Amanda Vanstone is not obnoxious by reason of her obesity.
Indeed she carries herself rather impressively and generally seems
smugly comfortable within her (ample) skin, so depicting her as a binge
eater pigging out on KFC is a real dumbing-down and dumb is one thing
Amanda isn’t – just listen to her AM interviews sometime.

Alan
Jones is (unintentionally) funnier and edgier in his own words (check
out his manic and hilariously obscene out-takes as published in Crikey
last year) and David Flint’s loving letters to Jones (also in Crikey)
are bursting with a self important absurdity far more tragi-comic than
the Gillies/Rundle characterisation. Likewise, Bush in film clips is
more ridiculous than the Gillies satire… Dubya is one guy you just
can’t dumb down, and a sequence from Outfoxed gives us more in half a
minute about Murdoch and China than Rundle’s uncomfortably racist
cracks about Rupert’s Chinese wife and children… not funny Guy!

The
first duty of the comedian is, of course, to be funny – to make us
laugh out loud and expel our pent up air, while the art of satire
causes us to breathe in sharply as we gasp with the shock of new
insights and fresh perspectives. On both these counts Gillies and
Rundle have largely fallen short of their sharply honed earlier
production which scarcely wasted a line and had us hooting and
spluttering most of the night.

The shortcomings of this
production are all the more poignant because Gillies is accompanied by
Eddie Perfect who sings political cabaret of extraordinary sharpness
and wit. Sharp intakes of breath there were indeed as Eddie sang
liltingly, with love, of Guantanamo, Andrew Bolt, gay marriage, the
Christian Right and suicide. These interludes have a function which is
to allow time for Gillies to change costume between characters but as
the evening wore on and Eddie’s lines grew sharper his accompaniment
darkened and deepened to the point of actually stealing the show and
throwing the star turn into rather tame relief.

Maybe it’s the
natural fate of the abrasive satirist to start out as the bane of the
establishment and end life as its pet? If so where does that leave the
punters?

At the sharpest point of The Big Con Eddie
Perfect attacked us in the audience for our bleeding-heart compassion
on behalf of refugees and the starving and the poor, asking us “why did
you come out tonight?… what’s so funny?… you’re the cunts with all
the money!!!”

It was a point well made and we can only hope
that Max and Guy ask themselves the same questions in the interest of
avoiding a predictable future as a couple of politically correct old
codgers with some lucrative party tricks.

Peter Fray

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