Jonathan Biggins brings The Gospel According to Paul to RPAC - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photo by Brett Boardman.

One of Australia’s most accomplished satirists is coming to Brisbane with one of his favourite politicians. Jonathan Biggins, co-creator with Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott of The Wharf Review, is presenting a one-night stand at RPAC of The Gospel According to Paul, a portrayal of one of Australia’s most compelling Prime Ministers.

“Revere him or loathe him, Paul Keating’s opinions are still sought, even 27 years after his leaving office – he can’t be dismissed, and even those people who loathe him respect him,” says Jonathan. Keating’s ongoing appeal is evident in the fact that the show, launched in 2019, is still pulling in enthusiastic audiences.

Jonathan, who has satirised more than a fair share of leading public figures, credits Gerry Connolly with igniting his initial interest in playing Keating and finds him a fascinating character.

“He’s a self-taught polymath, grew up in Bankstown and left school at 14, so it’s quite extraordinary that he got to where he did. It’s that historical narrative that gets the momentum going, that drives the show and the character.

“He could be very crushing on a personal level, but it was always really about the policy and the job at hand. He realised that in public life you don’t get much time to make a difference; there’s just one shot at the big picture so he was fortunate to have been in one of the most talented ministries that this country’s ever seen.”

For all his serious politics, Jonathan says that Keating is a natural character to write for because he is incredibly entertaining.

“It’s ‘throw the switch to vaudeville’! The put-downs are a fun thing and he relished the whole theatricality of question time. He used to manage a rock band and would often get up and sing with them.

“With Keating, his voice is characteristic – though not his pace, or the show would take five hours – his speech patterns, repeating certain phrases. A real challenge was avoiding hagiography, but it’s difficult to criticise someone who’s not given to self-criticism. And he could behave like the most intelligent person in the room – but basically he was kind of right and that gets very hard to argue with.”

Jonathan says that writing satire is similar to political cartooning.

“Drew describes our work as creating three-dimensional political cartoons that move – and that’s the secret for impersonating these people,” Jonathan says. “It’s finding the hooks and characteristics that people will immediately recognise. Review is an abbreviated way of performing; you have so little time that you have to establish the character within a few minutes of getting on stage.”

Precise, economic writing is particularly important, and Jonathan says that an editor’s pen is a review satirist’s best friend (“keep it brief and keep it tight”) and relates a story of the late, great John Clarke’s advice to a tyro satirist who resisted having his work edited; “There are two types of writers who don’t want their work cut; amateurs and geniuses. Which are you?”

On a sad note for aficionados of political theatre, the 2025 Wharf Review will be the last.

“Like politics, it’s knowing when to leave, and we think it’s time to get out before we start repeating ourselves. We’re trying to say it as often as possible so that we’ll stick to it, just in case we’re tempted to keep going. And it’ll be nice to do something else, have fun writing something that isn’t just politics.”

Whatever the team turns their hand to there will be a breathless Australia-wide theatre audience waiting for the results.

The Gospel According to Paul will be staged on Thursday, 23 May 2024, at 7:30 p.m. To book, call 3829 8131 or visit

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