Powerful, important and immensely watchable theatre

By Tania Herbert

With hunger strikes on Nauru, boats of asylum seekers arriving almost daily, and the Australia government attempting to excise Australia’s shores from, well, Australia (and no, it doesn’t make sense), there is no better time for Act-O-Matic 3000’s presentation of The Modern International Dead.

Written by Damien Miller, the play is based around the true adventures of three international workers: a soldier, a nun, and a bio-chemist, and relates their experiences – and the impact of those experiences – through tales of some of the most significant human rights violations in recent times.

Despite the heavy material, this is an extremely watchable piece of theatre, and the range of characters and emotions presents the audience with moments everyone can relate and connect to. The three performers complement one another’s stories and show an impressive range with humorous and varied characterizations, and there is a slickness to the whole show which is only likely to increase through the season.

Brett Whittingham gives a raw and gritty portrayal of a soldier losing his heart in Cambodia and his mind in Rwanda. Equally intense is Nadia Tracy’s portrayal of an ex-Sister turned counselor who is fighting an equally fraught battle with her own faith and identity.

Yet the standout performance of the evening was without doubt Dan Walls as a simple bio-chemist who, in his never-ending quest to help, eventually finds himself as a weapons inspector seeking WMDs in Iraq. Believable and understated, you find yourself liking and empathizing with this ‘everyman’, giving the audience a rare insight into a very human face inside of one of the greatest political atrocities of modern history.

At times performances felt rushed, and there was a feeling that some of the power in the dialogue was reduced by fast pacing. However, the show is beautifully staged, and flawless audio and lighting effects greatly add to the experience, particularly as the intensity grows through the second act, where we see all of our three characters coming together in a spine-chilling reenactment of aid workers caught in the crossfire of the Rwandan genocide.

Perhaps the most rewarding part of going to see The Modern International Dead is the knowledge that this is a show that is certainly practicing what it is preaching- with all proceeds going to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) , supporting those seeking refugee status in Australia.

Whether it be to support a great cause, to see some great theatre, or to peek into the curious world of international development, The Modern International Dead is a highly recommended evening out.

Venue: Mechanics Institute, cnr Sydney & Glenlyon Rd, Brunswick

Season: Nov 17, 20-24 (8pm) & Sun 18 (4pm)

Tickets: $25 Full, $15 Conc, Pay What You Can Tue 20th

Bookings and info:,, Phone: 9005 7870