Abbott the Musical: It's a numbers game as political satire gets major rewrite

Abbott the Musical: It's a numbers game as political satire gets major rewrite

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Abbott the Musical is getting a rapid rewrite ahead of its appearance at the Melbourne Fringe. Photo: Ben Liew

Abbott the Musical is getting a rapid rewrite ahead of its appearance at the Melbourne Fringe. Photo: Ben Liew

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Karl Quinn

SPARE a thought for the people behind Abbott the Musical, who will be so busy over the next week they just may forget to make time for opening-night nerves.

Yesterday their leading man become the support act, while Daniel Murnane – one of the three writers of the show – found himself taking on a new role. "As of last night, I'm probably playing Malcolm Turnbull."

Billed as a "a fast-paced musical comedy", the satirical show debuted at Adelaide's Fringe Festival in March, was reworked for a second season in May, and is set to make its bow away from home at Melbourne's Fringe Festival next Monday night. But between now and then, there's a lot of rewriting to be done.

Abbott the Musical is getting a rapid rewrite ahead of its appearance at the Melbourne Fringe. Photo: Ben Liew

"I didn't really sleep last night," admits Murnane. "We started working on back-up plans as soon as the spill was mentioned. Is it a disaster? Is it a positive thing? How do we twist this?"

In the end they arrived at a position our new Prime Minister would surely endorse: it was a challenge, but also "an amazing opportunity. We can breathe a sigh of relief, write a final scene, and wrap up the show days after Tony Abbott's career as Prime Minister has ended. We've got closure."

Murnane insists he and his co-conspirators never considered pulling the pin, "if only because too many contracts had been signed."

In truth, rewrites have been a part of the show from day one, as they sought to incorporate the words and gaffes of the Honourable Member for Warringah as they spewed forth. "From night to night, the Abbottisms trickled in," Murnane says. "If he ate an onion, we'd have to try to work that in. We've become really quite good at reworking it."

Unlike many in the Liberal party room, it seems, they knew a spill was coming. "It was always a question of when it would come, so we've had a bit of practice at how to insert it."

Though new numbers about Turnbull and Julie Bishop "and their clandestine relationship" will be added, the heart of the show remains Abbott.

"It's now more of an obituary. It's therapy for everyone who's been harmed by PTSD – post-Tony stress disorder."

Murnane insists that he and his colleagues are not especially political, they just saw in the litany of errors from Abbott and his colleagues great material for an entertaining show.

As for the man himself, "he's really grown on me," he says.

"It's a bit like Stockholm Syndrome," he adds. "The success of our show depended on his failure."

Monday's upheaval in Canberra will also have been felt by the cast and crew of the Sydney Theatre Company's The Wharf Revue.

Running September 15-26 at the Playhouse in Canberra, the show promised that "a parade of past and present indignitaries" would be well-and-truly "skewered".

Tony Abbott's skewering will no doubt have undergone an unanticipated turn in the writers' room overnight.

Abbott the Musical is at Tuxedo Cat, 293-299 La Trobe Street, Sept 21 to Oct 4 as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival. Full program: melbournefringe.com.au

Sydney Morning Herald

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