The idea behind the concept of MAVIS BRAMSTON – RELOADED was to create a show in the style of the original iconic television series, but using topical subjects of the new millennium as our satirical targets.
Australia has a long history of satire. It’s is part of cultural heritage. The laconic style of delivery, the put-down, are all grist for the mill of our Australian brand of humour.
Intimate revue, which flourished on the stage during the 50s and 60s, especially at the legendary Phillip Street Theatre in Sydney, and the great solo performers, Barry Humphries and Reg Livermore, have all built their careers on satire. Television joined the bandwagon with the “Mavis Bramston Show”, and later with “The Comedy Company”, “Fast Forward”, and “Comedy Inc.”
MAVIS BRAMSTON – RELOADED now puts the genre back
on stage where it started. Poking irreverent fun at our sacred cows, celebrities,
institutions, and the world around us, it really is a show for the new
A brief overview of intimate revue in Australia
The intimate revue art form, an unrelated collection of satirical songs and sketches, had its genesis in University revues performed by medical, architectural, and law undergraduates dating back to the 1920s. Its first foray into mainstream theatre was in 1946 when The Kiwis, the New Zealand all-male soldier revue opened at Her Majesty's Theatre, Brisbane, with Alamein. It started a phenomenally successful seven years of touring for the company in similar shows that basically used the same song and sketch format.
Sydney followed soon after when the Minerva Theatre did a local version of the London revue hit Sweetest And Lowest in 1947, with musical-comedy matinee-idol Max Oldaker, and making his Australian theatre debut, Gordon Chater. Then in 1953, William Orr opened Metropolitan Merry-Go-Round, at the Metropolitan Theatre, and followed later in the same year with the first of his Phillip Street Revues, Top Of The Bill. Phillip Street became an institution in Sydney for the next seventeen years. It attracted the best acting and writing talent in the country at a time when there was no government subsidized theatre. The performers who 'topped the bill' at Phillip Street, read like a 'who's who' of the acting profession; Gordon Chater, Charles (Bud) Tingwell, Ray Barrett, Ruth Cracknell, June Salter, John Meillon, Barry Humphries, Reg Livermore, and Gloria Dawn to name but a few.
Other states quickly followed; In 1954 Melbourne saw the Union Theatre Repertory Company (later MTC) create an annual brand of the genre with Tram Stop 10, Adelaide came on board with the Flinders Street Revue Company presenting a series of revues starting in 1960 with Off The Square, and Brisbane did it in a theatre restaurant setting when The Living Room launched Sixes And Sevens in 1967.
Television dabbled in the genre during the late 50s when the ABC in Melbourne, did a series of one-off specials, that included Barry Humphries first TV appearance as Edna Everage. HSV-7 tried Bandwagon in 1959 and 1960, then ATN-7, Sydney, got into the act with Revue 61 which stayed around for two seasons.
The big commercial TV breakthrough of the genre was ATN-7s, THE MAVIS BRAMSTON SHOW in 1964, which made national stars of Gordon Chater, Carol Raye and Barry Creyton, and ran for four years. It owed a lot to the hit British show That Was The Week That Was, which in turn was a TV version of London's underground comedy club, The Establishment. Mavis pushed the envelope with its irreverent subject matter. It was frequently denounced from the pulpit, and criticized in the papers, which only made it more popular with viewers. British performers, Miriam Karlin and Ronnie Stevens did stints in the show, as did Dawn Lake, June Salter, Johnny Lockwood, John Bluthal, Barbara Angell, Hazel Phillips, and Reg Livermore. Brisbane saw its own local satirical series when Bea Blunt premiered in 1965 on QTQ-9.
The sixties also saw the proliferation of Barry Humphries one-man shows with their healthy dose of social satire, then later in the 70s Reg Livermore mined the same comedy vein. Noeline Brown, an original Mavis Bramston, made an even bigger name for herself when she joined Ross Higgins and Kevin Golsby in ABC radio's The Naked Vicar Show in 1976. A successful stage version of the format followed and toured nationally.
During the seventies, the country changed. The Labor Party were elected into office and then dismissed which created a heady climate for satire of a political nature. Max Gillies, whose forte was impersonation, particularly of national leaders, found a huge audience for his Night With The Right, and A Night Of National Reconciliation shows, which he later transferred to television with The Gillies Report, and The Gillies Summit.
Sketch comedy came back with a vengeance on television when The Comedy Company and Fast Forward launched in the late eighties making stars of Steve Vizard, Marg Downey, Magda Szubanski, Kim Gyngell, Mark Mitchell, and Glenn Robbins. During the nineties Sydney's Tilbury Hotel kept the genre alive on stage.
In recent years the flag has been flown by television's, skitHOUSE and Comedy Inc., the Sydney Theatre Company with their annual political Wharf Revue, and cabaret artist, Eddie Perfect with his cutting-edge routines.
©Copyright 2006 Peter Pinne