Tag: Justin Nott

REVIEW: Lucy Brien and Matilda Dixon Smith’s DEVOTED – A MUSICAL

Grease isn’t the word…

By Ross Larkin

Funded with campaign entity Pozible, Matilda Dixon-Smith’s contemporary take on 1978 musical Grease (this production was originally titled Grease: A Tragedy – later changed for legal reasons), Devoted is an intimate yet potentially alienating experience, not dissimilar from attending a party where one might feel included but, at times, ostracised.

Staged in a music venue, the curious space, in which the action occurs on the outskirts of the centrally placed audience, usually works well in providing an affectionate environment where one feels part of the story.


Re-imagined as, what feels like, a combination of Grease, Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain, Devoted charts the young love of Daniel and Sally played by Zak Pidd and Hannah Denison. Daniel’s love for Sally is compromised by his feelings for best pal, Nick (Eamonn George), while Nick has impregnated Raff (Sera Duff). After some endearing encounters and stacks of awesome original music by composer and MD Lucy O’Brien, the love square eventually turns sour with tragic consequences.

Utilising the garden of the Northcote Social Club, where actors play through glass windows works beautifully, almost filmic in feel. Other scenes require the audience to turn 360 degrees to focus on the action, keeping the pace active save for some clumsy blocking hindering sight lines.

This is, perhaps, why director Justin Nott opted to endow the entire cast with radio microphones for both song and dialogue. Sadly, however, this was a mistake. While being appropriate for certain musical numbers, the otherwise cosy and interactive context was far from requiring amplification, sometimes depleting ones bearings and detracting from the engagement of plot and emotion.

Thankfully, Pidd plays Daniel with commitment and charm, providing much of the show’s laughs and sincerity, while Duff is attitude personified and Kelly Cupo as Penny has a singing voice to die for and presence to match.

Accentuated by excellent songs, Devoted generally makes it difficult not to feel included in the colourful ‘party’, and engaged in this often funny, tragic story. Emerging young talent of this ilk deserve their efforts to skyrocket and hopefully grace larger spaces where microphones will suit just fine.

Devoted: A Musical played last night at the Northcote Social Club, 301 High Street, Northcote. Future performances to be advised.


The end is in sight

By Myron My

Inspired by Jose Saramago‘s novel and created by Justin Nott and Robert Smith, this play tells a story of an epidemic that takes over the world where everyone eventually – but suddenly – turns blind. Initially thought to be a contagious disease, the first people inflicted with the loss of sight are put into a large facility to be quarantined.


It is there we witness the crumbling of humanity and civilisation with people turning on each other to survive. It is here where we experience new Melbourne Fringe festival show, Blindness.

Limited to ten people per show (bookings essential), we are blindfolded and, holding hands, are guided to a room. We are then separated and the blindfolds come off. All I can see is white – and nothing else. Just a white bright light all around me. Panic immediately sets in and I take a few deep breaths trying to figure out how they have managed to do this. Did they put some sort of mask over me while the blindfold was on? It is a few minutes later I realise the simplicity and ingenuity of how they have “blinded” me. I am not even sure how many actors are in the piece as we can only hear them. The attention to my internal terror and anxiety is on par with the attention I am giving to the actors.

There is not much of a story here, and perhaps it’s because I am quite familiar with the novel and film that I am able to follow and fill in the blanks. The very loose narrative jumps over quite large gaps, so for someone who is new to Blindness, it could be difficult to understand. While the story is being told, I am free to roam around. I occasionally bump into someone and am sometimes so close to someone that I can hear their breathing but still unable to see them. The interaction with the actors (or maybe some emotional audience members?) adds to the whole experience and another example of the brilliant immersive theatre taking over the Melbourne scene.

Blindness is a work in development and there is great potential to this show but a lot more attention needs to be focused on the unfolding narrative to really make audience members appreciate what they have experienced.

Blindness is showing as part of the 2013 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Venue: Second Edition, Rear of Higher Ground, 222 Johnston St, Collingwood

Season: Until 28 September | 7;00pm and 10:00pm

Tickets: Free

Bookings: ESSENTIAL – blindness.fringe@gmail.com