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Credit: University of Sydney Union
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Student revues entertain and enlighten whole community

23 May 2016
There's a lot more to student life than what happens in the classroom

At any given point in time our students are finding ways to let their creative energy run free. 

Our student performing arts scene is more than just a way for students to express their creativity. Photo: University of Sydney Union

Outside classrooms and libraries, the University of Sydney is fertile ground for student entertainment. Groups come together and perform to the campus masses, putting on plays, live performances, concerts, improv comedy and revues to entertain their peers and make new friends with a shared passion. It also means there’s always something going on that’ll occupy your lunch break.

Our student performing arts scene is more than just a way for students to express their creativity. Students join a rich community of both talented and amateur performers and creators, where no idea is too adventurous or outrageous.

Last week’s Sydney Uni Revue brought together students from all corners of our community in a collaborative celebration of the performing arts scene. It was a mish-mash of highlights from last year’s shows to whet our appetites for the 2016 Revue Season and encourage newcomers to get involved.

Sydney’s Revues are a tradition. A collection of student-made productions that blend comedy sketches, ensemble songs - and occasional risqué bare-all moments - under a broad and often pun-heavy theme.

Last year’s shows included Darwins and Dragons (Science), Midsomer Mergers (Law), Orange is the New Blackboard (Education and Social Work) and the unforgettable Jew Revue, Sabbathday Night Fever.

They’re more than just a bit of fun – revues allow students to grapple with social and political issues through satirical, subversive and provocative humour. One show-stopping moment from the Sydney Uni Revue saw the cast take to the stage wearing fedoras to perform ‘Not All Men,’ a searing parody of misogyny set to the tune of a song from Disney’s Mulan.

In many ways, student performances contribute to an important, progressive dialogue about the experiences of minority groups, extending the University education beyond the classroom. The Identity Revues - Queer Revue, Wom*n’s Revue, Jew Revue and ACAR (Autonomous Collective Against Racism) Revue - allow our community to participate in timely social conversations. Performance art is by and for students, making it an accessible, inclusive and often offbeat way to engage with the world.

Sydney students have always used the performing arts as a platform for developing their ideas and creativity. Alumni like John Bell, the Chaser, Axis of Awesome and the Aunty Jack Show have been leading stars in Australia’s cultural scene, owing in part to the experiences and connections they made during their time here.

“When I first got involved, I found it really humbling to be surrounded by so many talented people,” said Kay Pengelly, a cast member of the Sydney Uni Revue. “I feel like this is such a great growing place for performing arts, especially comedy, in Sydney.”

In addition to 13 revues, there are 14 performance and arts clubs and societies that provide students with outlets to pursue their creative sides outside the classroom. These range from an a cappella society, BarberSoc, to the Movement and Dance Society (Madsoc) and the Sydney Dramatic Society (SUDS), which also happens to be Australia’s longest continually running theatre company - almost as old as the University itself. Students can also try out their improv skills (without fear of being booed off the stage) at a weekly Theatresports session at Manning Bar.

The variety of clubs, societies and revues makes sure that a diversity of voices and perspectives enhance the University. Students from the arts and humanities don’t hold a monopoly on creativity, with faculty revues like the Engineering or Medical Science Revues demonstrating that anyone can inspire satire and humour.

SoulXpress: the University of Sydney's hip hop society's mission is to spread and encourage hip hop culture. Photo: University of Sydeny Union.

“No matter who you are, there’s always going to be a platform for you to get up and have some fun,” said Jack Ballhausen, director of the Sydney Uni Revue and Bachelor of Arts student.

“It means that groups of people who might not get a voice in other realms certainly get one, which is a really wonderful aspect.”

The Sydney Uni Revue was the result of months of workshopping and rehearsals, a process which cast-members described as exhilarating and motivating.

“It’s so affirming to throw your eccentric or obscure ideas out into the room and have someone say ‘yes!’,” said Ballhausen. “It’s always a fun challenge to try and make those ideas happen.”

“To then see those ideas put onto a stage and turned into something spectacular is a really lovely thing.”

You can get involved even if you get heart palpitations at the thought of singing, dancing or acting in public. Revues, clubs and societies have a whole team of behind-the-scene workers, from producers, backstage hands and costume designers to secretaries, treasurers and publicity officers.

Check out our student performers at one of the Identity Revues, which run until 11 June.

Photos: University of Sydney Union