(Brisbane Powerhouse)


Music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto

The Drowsy Drivers

Professional production

Oh yes, I remember it well – the Kirribilli agreement, the sweetest victory of all, the piggery, the Armani suits, Placido Domingo, Alexander Downer’s fishnets, and Australia deciding time and again.

They were heady days in Australian politics, the early 1990s, and all of the (admittedly partisan) audience at the Powerhouse last week gasped, thrilled, cheered, hissed and scoffed, as the program urged them to do, at Paul Keating’s various victories and inevitable final defeat, and laughed themselves sick at the blatant political revisionism.

Keating! is political satire at its best, at least as good as Max Gillies but with the added advantage of great music from reggae to rock, all composed by writer/actor/director Casey Bennetto, and performed by the most cheerful bunch of musos you’ve ever seen, who sing along, provide the chorus lines, and get up and perform minor roles. I’ll never forget whatsisname, dressed as Cheryl Kernow in a bad blonde wig and a red shoe-string top that displayed a great deal of chest hair, singing “Heavens, Mr Evans”, and her Foreign Affair replying in tones somewhat less-than-dulcet, “My heart’s in peril, Cheryl”.

Mike McLeish plays Keating, wily and articulate, especially in his invective, and in the songs manages to rhyme Howard not with coward , for a pleasant change, but with empowered and grapes that are soured , while the very well-built Casey Bennetto appears first in a gleaming wig and a white towelling dressing gown, not so much as the Silver Budgie but the Silver Barn Owl; and later, as Keating’s nemesis, needing only horn-rimmed specs and bushy eyebrows to place him in the power struggle.

I wonder if Peter Costello saw this show in one of its sell-out seasons in Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide, and whether he would have related to “the promise that a friend once made”, as Keating schemes to get his own back on Bob Hawke. I wonder whether today’s born-again John Hewson would recognise himself as the limp proponent of the GST, which Howard later promised we would never never have? But I bet Kerry O’Brien loved the way he is sent up in the 1993 election coverage.

This is politics for all those who can remember, not with bitterness but with nostalgia for the good old days, when stoushes were stoushes, when politics had some guts, when parliamentary debate was more than merely mud-slinging, and where we waited with bated breath for Keating’s latest streams of abuse.

“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end”, but although they had to finish, this brilliant piece of satire showed us, albeit for only six performances, that there are still people of vision among ALP supporters, and that the Light on the Hill still shines, however much it may be hidden under a bushel.

Directed by Casey Bennetto and Mike McLeish

Played 8 – 12 August at 8pm, Saturday matinee at 4.30pm

Duration : 1 hour, no interval

— Alison Cotes
(Performance seen: Fri 11th August 2006)