Editor’s note: we have removed a section of this article in reference to a joke which we previously and erroneously labelled as ‘offensive’ . We acknowledge it was incorrect for us to make this judgement about a joke made by someone of that ethnic background when we ourselves have not faced their lived experiences, and we apologise.
Richard and Kat watched the opening night of Med Revue: Breaking Bones and came out of it with a lot of thoughts. It was dazzling, energetic, and... somewhat offensive.
As we entered Science Theatre, the atmosphere buzzed with energetic chatter from Med Revue alumni and friends of actors. In front of the stage, the band set great vibes with their jazzy rendition of the Mii Channel music.
The lights dimmed and a voice sarcastically told us that there would be “no edgy humour whatsoever.” But describing your humour as ‘edgy’ is always a bad omen.
Kat: So, what did you think was the highlight of the show?
Richard: Honestly, the best part wasn’t really the revue itself, but the band. The ‘Red Hot Capsicum’s’ cover of ‘Plastic Love’ was amazing. The funky bass, the keyboard solo and the wonderful singing really made the whole performance worth it.
Kat: Totally agree, I wish they had been used more throughout the show in place of pre-recorded songs. That parody of ‘Sincerely Me’ which combined the band and the vocals was a great example of the show’s potential.
Richard: Also, the singing and dancing was astonishingly good. Toby Marlowe was confident and brought great energy, and Kelly Lun went ham when singing ‘I Will Survive’. I wish they had leaned onto that element of the production more because that’s where it seemed everyone was having the most fun, trying their hardest, and actually pulling it off.
Kat: The ‘Bad Guy’ dance was my favourite. Its choreography, high pace, and the cool lighting made it look like a music video. Every piece of choreography was impressive. Rosanna Cheong and Jessica Zhang were stand outs, specifically during the Rob Cantor ‘Ian Jacobs’ parody.
The last dance was also really fun, great vibes to end the show. My only critique was that the lights shone straight into my eyes a few times, temporarily blinding me, and I would miss parts of the performance.
By the way, the props suited the show so well. They were ambitious, bright and colourful, and made the show feel larger than life.
I wish they had leaned onto that element of the production more because that’s where it seemed everyone was having the most fun, trying their hardest, and actually pulling it off. - Richard
Richard: And then… there was the not-so-great stuff. What were some parts that missed the mark for you?
Kat: The length. It was three-hours long. To put that into perspective, that’s as long as Hamilton. For a show that was mostly skit after skit, three hours is just too much. It starts to drag, especially in the second half, and this is only made worse by the recycled material.
Richard: The voiceover material was the biggest problem. A lot of the lines were old, lazy jokes that rarely landed. The theme of drugs wasn’t incorporated in a clever or funny way, instead, writers relied on the mere mention of weed or pingas to get a laugh. Putting all that aside, the “Sir Jerry/Surgery” pun was top-notch; give that writer an award.
Kat: To be fair, the voiceover acting was immersive and well done. Shamis El-Daoud, in particular, was a stand-out. Her Italian/New York accent was perfect, and her voice has this radio-presenter quality to it.
That being said, some of the skits just didn’t work. One particular scene titled, “The Sketch That Goes Wrong,” was supposed to be a parody of a ‘bad skit'…not that we could tell.
Another problem I had was the repetition.
Richard: Med students must be big Harry Potter nerds because the number of Harry Potter jokes was ridiculous. I couldn’t understand why they’d use literally the same punchline seven or eight times. Another problem I had was the tonal whiplash - the performers would go from a Shrek-inspired skit to an emotionally draining Marriage Story-style argument within the span of a couple of minutes.
Kat: Agree, the serious moments take us out of the suspension of disbelief the show maintains during its phantasmagorical skits and end up grinding the entire thing to a halt.
... some of the skits just didn’t work. One particular scene titled, “The Sketch That Goes Wrong,” was supposed to be a parody of a ‘bad skit'…not that we could tell. - Kat
Richard: What parts of the show were unforgivable?
Kat: Med Revue has a tumultuous past with what they call ‘edgy’ humour. While I don’t think this year was as bad as 2018, some of the jokes were at best, insensitive, and at worst, plainly racist. The audience even recognised that some of these jokes were offensive, because whenever they happened, someone would yell, “Tharunka!”
The other racist moment was a joke about China and COVID-19. The voiceover said, “Let’s play Chinese whispers” and proceeded to cough for 10 seconds before another character replies, “coronavirus?”. In light of the wave of anti-Asian hate, including jokes like this is lazy and demonstrates a lack of cultural awareness.
While I don’t think this year was as bad as 2018, some of the jokes were at best, insensitive, and at worst, plainly racist. - Kat
To Sum Up
Med Revue suffers from issues with foresight and racism that appear to stem from a history of bad judgement in past productions. Since 2018, Med Revue has addressed this to some extent, but clearly there are ongoing issues.
If you can overlook these moments, Med Revue: Breaking Bones is undeniably a bright, energetic experience with some strong highlights. Without doubt, the dancing, band and set-production were impressive, the cast’s chemistry is electric, and their energy is contagious.
Med Revue 2021: Breaking Bones is playing at Science Theatre from 13-16th April. Tickets are available from $15 on the Med Revue website.