Theatreroo’s “serious political comedy” Perfect World was a musical revue about the geopolitical events that have shaped the first two decades of the twenty-first century, focusing specifically on war and climate change. Written by Clarry Evans and Denny Lawrence, and directed by Lawrence, Perfect World initially premiered at The Basement, Bowen Hills, in 2022 and returned for a limited season at PIP Theatre in Milton.
The cast of five – Tegan Braithwaite, Fiona Buchanan, Sandro Colarelli, Matt Newnham, and Daniel Smerdon – maintained a consistent energy throughout the 60-minute performance and executed quick changes in costume and tone. The vocal performances of Perfect World were supported by a four-piece live band, with musical direction by Sante d’Ettore. The use of live music added another layer to the performance, although it would have been great to see the band seated onstage rather than off to the side of the audience.
The performers entered and exited from both sides of the stage and Newnham and Smerdon alternated between the stage and the musicians – Smerdon’s performance on the cello added a new texture and depth of feeling to a number of the songs, and Newnham’s solo song as a disillusioned soldier was very moving, and a standout for me.
Perfect World covered a lot of ground in one hour, both thematically and in terms of the number of songs and characters presented. The actors adopted a number of different characterisations, satirising several of world leaders and a young activist modelled after Greta Thunberg. The physical performance also experimented with other, more abstract, forms of movement, and the choreography of the dance numbers was well executed.
The first half of the performance used a news broadcast as a storytelling frame, and this was a helpful way to maintain flow, but was used less as the show progressed. Even shifting along a chronological timeline, the narrative arc was loose and shifted between specific historical events – the terrorist attacks on September 11, Greta Thunberg’s blistering address at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit – and broader topics like greed, corruption, and the incomprehensible scale of destruction and violence that has occurred in the past two decades.
Lighting by John St Claire added to the sense of emergency, and costuming by Denise Toogood effectively employed a wide range of accessories. Multiple costume changes were managed smoothly by the cast, but occasionally made the characters less clear, especially in switching between parodies of real political figures and other, entirely fictional characters.
Perfect World was performed with commitment and earnestness and, despite the bleak outlook of many of the songs, the show ended on a hopeful note and with a call to action. The audience was reminded us that there have always been rebellions and revolutions; that change has been made through the power of the people before, and can be again.
Perfect World was performed at PIP Theatre, Milton, from 13 – 15 April 2023
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