The opening song, Mic Conway’s version of Nostalgia’s Not What It Used To Be, set the tone for some reminiscing about the characters and content of the innovative satirical show, The Gillies Report.
The nature of politics has changed considerably since the eighties when the The Gillies Report was in its heyday. Max Gillies reminisces about these changes and explores the characters he lampooned with a series of slides, stories and famous speeches he made in character as some of politicians of the seventies and eighties.
Gillies opened with a serious discussion of how a just society is based on mutual respect, power must be restrained and how lucky we are being Australian. He mentioned how a certain modern world leader is in territory beyond satire and deserves to be re-incarnated as himself.
He then went through some very funny slides of himself as various political characters, talked a little about the background and then performed speeches he had made as these characters when they were active in politics.
Gillies started with Billy McMahon and his notorious telephone calls, followed by his portrayal of Bob Hawke, a highlight of the evening. Other politicians portrayed and satirised included Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth and Graham Richardson, discussing the wunderkind Paul Keating.
At the intermission the audience were invited to write questions on a card for Gillies to consider. Gillies noted a recent phenomenon where the word Trump has been written on the cards and he posited that the world is so bemused and befuddled by the new American President to the extent that it is hard to think of appropriate questions.
He then continued by talking about how he studied the mannerisms and traits of politicians before he went to create their persona and then go on to impersonate them. His journeys to find the core attributes to focus on with Don Chipp and Malcolm Fraser made for captivating anecdotes.
He also thanked his writers from over the years, Don Watson, Patrick Cook and Guy Rundle and acknowledged the significant contributions of make-up artists, prosthetic fabricators and special effects artists.
Gillies had some engrossing responses to questions about how the various politicians responded to his performances.
Gillies closed the show with a sketch of a doddering John Howard in his dressing gown, settling in for the night and talking about Jeanette, his childhood and the jokes of the Methodists.
ONCE WERE LEADERS : AN EVENING WITH MAX GILLIES is playing the Glen Street Theatre, Belrose until Sunday 26th February.