By Peter Maddern

Paul Keating has been a constant in the Australian political landscape for 40 years and his many current and often unsolicited intrusions into public discourse seem likely to keep him there. As such his persona, complete with its extraordinary contradictions, is ripe for satire and review.

Jonathan Biggins has made a study of the man over many years and this is the culmination of that work – 90 minutes with the stage to himself – no doubt as Keating would have preferred too in his heyday.

While staying away from the former Prime Minister’s private life, what we get is a potted history of the Australian Labor Party since the war and indeed the national politic generally. Biggins, as writer and performer, has a great time; delivering great line after line, mannerism after mannerism, even song after song, all with pinpoint timing. As such this is a faultless performance even if his staging, of a plush study replete with the occasional clock and 18th century portrait, seemed under-developed as material he exploits.

The query in the mind of this reviewer is this play’s relevance in the context of a State Theatre’s program. For sure it would make great viewing during the Festival or the Fringe but, at the end of The Gospel, it is not as if one feels weighed down by Keating’s great human insights. For the woke, of course, this is a night out for constant retelling – what wouldn’t they enjoy by their hero wishing Peter Dutton or Pauline Hanson dead? – but for others much of the material may have seemed a touch clichéd.

Still, it will get the turnstiles ticking and as we emerge from the pandemic, albeit still in silly masks, that may be its chosen purpose and a good one at that.

Kryztoff Rating   4K

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