Merciless Gods | Little Ones TheatrePhotos – Pier Carthew

Irrespective of the form, a work by Christos Tsiolkas is always an explorative journey into our dark and painful selves. While we don’t have to have lived a similarity to recognise these characters, to fall within any, or all, of Tsiolkas’ trademark examinations – Melbourne, Greek, immigrant, gay, working class – is to hear your own voice.

Brutally and graphically frank, sexually and emotionally tormenting, this series of simply staged and beautifully lit vignettes offers a voyeuristic portal into lives on the periphery but always earthed in something intrinsically and recognisably local.

Dan Giovannoni’s Green Room Award winning critically acclaimed adaptation of Merciless Gods played seasons in Melbourne and in Sydney in 2017, and as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne has reignited the productions original cast and creative team and scaled it up to the Fairfax Studio. (Reviewed previously at Australia Stage 1 August 2017)

Friends, family, migrant camps, gay saunas, porn sets and even Sydney, this collection of vicious contemporary stories has been beautifully and poetically versed by Giovannoni, then considered and agonisingly understood by director Stephen Nicolazzo of Little Ones Theatre. This is language so rich, I felt drenched – these are characters so complex, I felt for the actors.

Eight set pieces over two acts provides this committed ensemble a steady rotation of star turns while amply supporting each other when the light is slightly dimmer. Paul Blenheim adapts and morphs incredibly with each appearance, but his seated barely clad heart hurting junkie was agonising in its beauty and longing. Brigid Gallacher is toxic with her face in a washing basket of rancid odour that enhances her passionate loathing of a teenage son. Charles Purcell is perfectly cast for his shapely and handsome vulnerability across all his roles, Stefan Bramble knows the power of stillness and incredible vocal range delivering a speech of Lear like proportions and Sapidah Kian powerfully closes the evening with a graphic monologue of anonymous gay sex that somehow feels more uncomfortable given the details are delivered by a woman.

Reprising her (understandable) 2017 Green Room Award winning performance, Jennifer Vuletic is mesmerising, compelling, unabashed and bravely present in each of her outstanding portrayals. Ageing migrant woman seeking understanding of her son through his video collection, drunken bohemian mother attacking the daughter she deigned not to abort, hard living hippie junkie father bringing things to a hypodermic close surrounded by love and adoration. Possibly an overused superlative phrase, but this performance alone is “ticket price” worthy.

Dedicated to investigating gender and queer aesthetics, Little Ones Theatre declares that it makes works that are kitsch, camp, sensual, and erotically-charged – for this extraordinary piece, Intelligent is a word I recommend they add to the list.

Arty Graphic Intense Funny Tragic Relentless and very very good.


Little Ones Theatre presents
Merciless Gods
by Dan Giovannoni after Christos Tsiolkas | based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas

Director Stephen Nicolazzo

Venue: Fairfax Studio | Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 6 – 10 February 2019
Tickets: $30 – $47

Developed with Darebin Arts Speakeasy and Griffin Theatre Company


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