Victoria’s favourite criminal, or the bushranger with a heart according to Groaning Dam’s production of NED – A New Australian Musical. The heavily skewed tale of the down on his luck vagrant, hunted by law along with his rag tag group of brothers and friends is a lighthearted look at the life of the Aussie icon.
Featuring an entirely original score and book, the all Australian musical pays tribute to the highway robber Ned Kelly and the infamous Kelly Gang.
After selling out the Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo, the cast reunited for this one off event at The National Theatre in Melbourne presenting the production Concert/Oratorio style, in what felt more like a sneak peek into the rehearsal room sitzprobe as actors held their books for reference.
Projected images from the Bendigo production complemented the vocals and helped to explain the on stage narrative which could have been difficult to follow in this stripped back style of performance.
While it involved a fair bit of suspension of belief, the cast remained focused and brought the audience into the drama unfolding on stage. Stand out songs (Iron & I, A Woman’s Hand) were performed with gusto and the show’s title character (Nelson Gardner) was a force to be reckoned with along with the tough as nails Ellen Kelly, (Penny Larkins) the Kelly matriarch who remained loyal to her outlaw son.
The entire ensemble were a polished team of performers, allowing soaring harmonies to fill The National Theatre, while the orchestration and heavy string presence allowed the Irish influences within the score to come through.
Nick Simpson-Deeks was delightfully unlikeable as Constable Fitzpatrick, and Connor Crawford as Joe Byrne kept his charm and humor until his untimely end. What was most enjoyable about the whole production was the infusion of humor in the script, a kind of Aussie larrikin/luck of the Irish that kept the Kelly Gang alive and ultimately turned them into legends.
Directed by Gary Young with musical direction by Kellie Dickerson, NED has all the makings of an Aussie classic. With any luck, audiences will have more opportunities to see this intriguing production on a stage soon.
Groaning Dam in association with The National Theatre presents
NED – A New Australian Musical In Concert
by Adam Lyon
Directed by Gary Young
Venue: The National Theatre, 20 Carlisle St, St Kilda,
Date: 17 July, 2017
Bookings: (03) 9525 4611 | www.nationaltheatre.org.au