Left – Jennifer Vuletic. Cover – Sapidah Kian. Photo – Sarah Walker
Eight of the fifteen stories contained in Christos Tsiolkas' book Merciless Gods have been included in the theatrical version Merciless Gods by Dan Giovannoni, directed by Stephen Nicolazzo for his Little Ones Theatre.
The play begins, as the book does, with a booze and drug fuelled dinner party game where everyone has to write one word on a scrap of paper, a word that denotes an emotional state or a category of morality or experience, and the scrap is placed in a bowl. Once all the words go in the bowl, each person chooses one, blindly and randomly, and has to tell a story based on that word. The parlour game becomes the conduit for an act of bloody revenge.
This segment is the most theatrically successful of the eight vignettes that make up the whole. It introduces the ensemble of actors as a cohesive corps and the dialogue is brisk and snappy, building to the devastating denouement.
The ensemble grace the stage together again in the second act in a piece about assisted euthanasia called Saturn Return, but the rest of the programme is made up of solos or duets or half ensemble pieces, most little more than recitations of Tsiolkas' prose, which is poetic, passionate, political, polemical.
Pornography sucks up nearly a third of the content, guilt edged, defiling, denigrating, filthy, sadistic. A mother discovers the truth of her deceased son's movie career. A subservient to a vile pornographer reflects on the sordid banality of the trade. And a non European has illicit intimacy with a European, “knowing he is doomed to sin, not having the resolve to resist temptation.”
Semen, sweat, blood, and other bodily secretions are given voluminous verbiage, the vernacular of the carnal given full sway in what is mostly a flagellating footlights experience.
Eugyeene Teh's simple red curtain set illustrates the company's mission statement as presented in the programme notes – a queer theatre collective which creates camp, kitsch and erotically charged theatrical events with the potential for cultish fascination.
Little Ones Theatre and Griffin Independent present
by Dan Giovannoni after Christos Tsiolkas
Director Stephen Nicolazzo
Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross, NSW
Dates: 4 – 25 November 2017
Tickets: $38 – $30
Bookings: 02 9361 3817 | www.griffintheatre.com.au