Walk into the darkness
By Leeor Adar
Little Ones Theatre manages to make me laugh at the grotesque and alluring once again in Merciless Gods. Whether it’s the description of a hardened criminal unpicking thorns from the tongue of a paedophile or the pungent growth spurt of a teenage boy, beautiful and ugly words cohabit so eloquently at the end of Don Giovannoni’s pen, the result of which is imagined onto the stage with feverish intensity by director Stephen Nicolazzo.
The scene is set early on as a gathering of hip university-educated 20-somethings pop pills and dive into their samosas before descending into the truly “bad” things they’ve done. A competition of sorts of the varying evils they’ve seen or committed. Merciless Gods is at its core a series of monologues and performances that capture Australia’s foreign identity and the universal identity of being human, even if it’s grotesque and sadistic. There is enormous vulnerability too in this production, as it lays itself bare to hard truths.
Eugyeene Teh’s costume and set design is a perfect mix of minimalist drama. We have red curtains and a catwalk of sorts for a stage to let the intense performances unfold before us. Intense is honestly an understatement, and I found myself really affected and mesmerised by the actors.
Peter Paltos delivered a monologue that really defined the night for me. As the criminal who commits an unforgivable crime in line with the rest of the merciless gods of the night, Paltos manages to describe with such lush expression the pity he experiences, and the violence of his actions. I am certain the audience had their eyes fixed on his sweat, spit and grit with wonder. Another notable series of performances by the mercurial Jennifer Vuletic really heightened the calibre of this production. Vuletic could inhabit the pious tragic figure of a woman speaking broken English and then swoop on stage in naked cruel glory wearing nothing but royal red robes to tear apart her feminist daughter (Brigid Gallacher).
Despite its darkness, there is a great deal of humour in Merciless Gods. Gallacher’s comic timing sent the audience into frequent bouts of laughter, even when she beautifully and breathlessly gazed upon her teenage son with love and disgust. Of course the humour delivered really emerges from Giovannoni’s writing which in its poetic and succinct quality captures what we think but cannot articulate.
Audiences with softer stomachs and a penchant for political correctness may feel queasy at some of the language, so heed this warning. Merciless Gods is unapologetic in its content and brutality and I find it utterly appealing for this reason.
Take time out of your every day and head to the Northcote Town Hall to catch Merciless Gods. The production runs until 5 August. Book your tickets here: http://www.littleonestheatre.com.au/merciless-gods/
Image by Sarah Walker