Review: A Riff on Keef, The Human Myth

Terry-Serio and Abe Mitchell  Photo: Ross Waldron

Terry-Serio and Abe Mitchell Photo: Ross Waldron

Most fans of the Rolling Stones see Keith Richards as the epitome of everything the band stands for. He is the really cool dude despite the glamour and notoriety that surrounds frontman Mick Jagger.

Sydney playwright Benito Di Fonzo evidently shares that view. His play, A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth, at the SBW Stables Theatre in Kings Cross until December 12 is all about ‘Keef’.

“Mick was a thick git with a minuscule prick but elephantitis of the bollocks what gave him a unique dancing style that strangely endeared me to him,” drawls the inimitable Terry Serio, who plays ‘Keef’ brilliantly.

Serio delighted audiences as Bob Hawke and John Howard in the 2006-08 musical,  Keating!, winning him the 2007 Helpmann Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. His rendition of “I want power” is utterly superb.

Lenore Munro and Terry Serio  Photo: Ross Waldron

Lenore Munro and Terry Serio Photo: Ross Waldron

Indeed, much of the success of this play centres on Serio who looks and sounds like ‘Keef’ in this Ocelot Productions and Griffin Independent collaboration.

It’s theatre of the absurd as we see the Rolling Stones form and emerge into history while Mick Jagger marries himself and then gives birth to himself. Nick Cave, Queen Liz and Chuck Berry also make an appearance.

In the meantime, a live band on the Stables intimate stage performs as Keef sings and presents his philosophy on life while pursuing his lifelong search for the “secret chord”.

The cast, under director Lucinda Gleeson, does a good job in supporting Serio: standouts are Lenore Munro whose fabulous voice and versatile performances are impeccable in roles that include Keef’s mum and Jagger girlfriend Maryann Faithful; and Branden Christine who struts and issues commands in an amusing variety of accents as she plays everything from police officers to Queen Liz and authority figures on Keef’s travels.

Abe Mitchell and Dorje Swallow Photo: Ross Waldron

Abe Mitchell and Dorje Swallow Photo: Ross Waldron

Abe Mitchell and Dorje Swallow alternately play Mick Jagger, as well as other roles such as Nick Cave and grandpa who sets Keef off on his search for the musical Holy Grail, “the lost chord”.

The play works beautifully in the Stables theatre as Sian James-Holland’s clever lighting design keeps the scene intimate without becoming claustrophobic.

This is the third play in a trilogy from playwright Benito Di Fonzo and director Lucinda Gleeson: The first was The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman, AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie). The next (adapted from a book by Damian Kringas) was Lenny Bruce: 13 Daze Un-Dug In Sydney 1962.

“Rock stars are the gods of our time; we examine their lives like we once did those of the Buddha or Christ,” says Di Fonzo. “They are just as valid, not in the sense of them as real people, but in the self-perpetuating mythology that the best of them create. As Bob Dylan was God, Lenny Bruce was man, so our divinely meta-biographical commedia moves to Keef – our devil. Any fan of popular culture will know this man is ripe for satire of the highest and most hedonistic order.”

And this show is certain to entertain not only fans of pop culture but also lovers of theatre and rock.

A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth, plays at the Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross until December 12. Bookings on 02 9361 3817 or

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