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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Interview With Jonathan Biggins

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Jonathan Biggins presents The Gospel According to Paul, at Lismore City Hall on Thursday and Friday

Jonathan Biggins presents The Gospel According to Paul

Lismore City Hall  |  Thursday and Friday  |  7.30pm  |  $25-59

Love him or hate him, Paul Keating is without a doubt one of Australia’s great leaders. In fact, in a time when that quality has come under greater scrutiny, it’s timely to hear Keating’s story. As part of the Wharf Revue, actor Jonathan Biggins has been playing Paul Keating for years now.

‘He is such an entertaining character,’ says Jonathan, of Keating. ‘He was acerbic – he could get away with saying almost anything. When I wrote this show, I thought maybe I had missed the boat as he’s out of people’s consciousness, but now there is a vacuum of leadership. So even people who don’t like him miss him. They miss conviction in a politician. They miss people who could look beyond next week and into the next decade.’

So how does a man make himself into Keating?

‘It starts with impersonation’, says Biggins, who admits he had to speed up Keating’s speech. ‘If you spoke at Paul’s pace, it would go forever because he was so – slow. But I do try and look like him, and sound like him, and people have said we are just watching him when you are on stage, we are not watching you!’

Paul Keating has been to see the show a few times. When he first came to see Biggins in the Wharf Revue his comment was ‘I’d have been wearing a better suit.’ But they didn’t have the budget for a Zegna. His reaction to the current show The Gospel According To Paul was to thank Biggins for being so generous. Most recently Biggins was relieved when Paul’s biographer came to the show and only made one change. It was that Paul left school at 14. It’s inspiring that such a brilliant man didn’t finish school… proof that square pegs can go on to find their holes.

So, what is the trick to playing Paul Keating?

‘One of the challenges is that he’s not given to self-criticism – so you have to play that. Sometimes his arrogance gets the better of him – he’s not self-deprecatory, though he is modest and very private.’

Biggins has created a script that includes many of Keating’s witticisms, and many that he didn’t say – you’ll have to guess which is which. Some of Biggins’ favourite Keatingisms are…

‘When he was speaking about Andrew Peacock, and said “A souffle can’t rise twice.” Or when he described Peter Costello as “All tip, no iceberg.” He also said “Leadership isn’t about being popular, it’s about being right.” That’s so accurate and true. He was always good with the parliamentary insult.’

Jonathan Biggins presents The Gospel According to Paul, at Lismore City Hall on Thursday and Friday, at 7.30pm. Tix are $25–59 from norpa.org.au.


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