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The Gospel According to Paul - Sydney Opera House (NSW)

Presented by Sydney Opera House in association with Soft Tread Enterprises.


An ecclectic look into the government of Paul Keating. This is one for those familiar and new to the politics of Australia's history and one of its most formidable stories

 

Reviewed by Chanele Mao

Playhouse, Sydney Opera House

Season 4 - 23 June 2024

 

The Gospel According to Paul is a one-man show, where Jonathan Biggins plays the former Prime Minister of Australia, Paul Keating. Biggins shows Keating as a formidable and fascinating leader - full of wit, verve, and knowledge.

 

Walking into the Playhouse for an exciting night of theatre, I was not sure what to expect. Although I had arrived in Australia during the Paul Keating era, I did not know much about him or his policies. He was certainly an enigmatic man, with dark hair and dark eyes – there was a mystery about him. Keating became the 27th Prime Minister, who rose to eminence in the Robert “Bob” Hawke government, when as then Treasurer he became PM by a narrow margin.


The Gospel According to Paul. Image: Provided by Sydney Opera House
The Gospel According to Paul. Image: Provided by Sydney Opera House

 

The play takes place in Keating’s later years. As Keating reflects to his early years and takes a look back at his life in politics, and the many characters and leadership challenges he faced. Undoubtedly, Keating was a visionary. He had a direct and counter point of view that did not always fit in with the establishment.

 

The set of Paul is made up of deep red shades of old money, starting with the maroon-coloured walls decorated tastefully with 19th century oil paintings and portraits. Right in the centre of the stage is a marvellous, polished, redwood desk and chair – we are in Keating’s office. It feels cosy, comfortable, and warm in this office. There was a sophistication and refinement about it that harks back to Keating’s personality and interests.

 

There was a lot to take in with Paul. Biggins pulled out many witty jokes throughout the evening which made the audience laugh uproariously. He entertained us with vaudeville-like dance numbers and songs, which made for an interesting lens to view Keating’s story.


Was Keating a tyrant or a philosophical leader? Was he ahead of his time or a rabble-rouser?

 

I felt leaving the theatre with a renewed fascination of Keating. If you’re a fan of Australian politics and have an interest in its political history, then Paul is a great play to watch. If you are not familiar with Australian politics, then Paul will give you a whip fast review of the events that brought down Keating’s government, and give you greater insight, as long as you don’t doze off in the middle where things become stale. Was Keating a tyrant or a philosophical leader? Was he ahead of his time or a rabble-rouser? This may be your last chance to catch the play – one final act.

 

The show runs for approximately 90 mins with no interval.


Cast & Creatives

Director: Aarne Neeme

Soft Tread Enterprises Producer: Jo Dyer

Actor/Creator/Co-Producer: Jonathan Biggins

Sound & Video designer: David Bergman

Lighting designer: Verity Hampson

Set, Props & Costume Design: Mark Thompson

Technical Director: Marcus Kelson 

Stage manager: Tanya Leach  

 

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