Tag: Kelly Ryall

Theatre Works Presents ANIMAL

Core-shaking theatre

By Myron My

Watching Animal is a rare theatrical experience. It has such a visceral effect on you that you are left shaken and feeling extremely vulnerable and angry as you walk out. Created by Susie Dee, Kate Sherman and Nicci Wilks, it is an exploration of domestic violence and how women are meant to react in a world where violence against women and male brutishness are celebrated – and it is as gritty as physical theatre can be.


The stage design by Marg Horwell feels like a large shipping container; dark, cold and empty except for a number of small square cages. The two sisters climb and crawl over them, the whole time emoting that they are also caged, desperately looking for a way out. The tattered netting that covers the roof can be seen as protection from the outside, but with the many holes in it, it is only a matter of time before it is destroyed. 

Composer Kelly Ryall builds a suffocating and unsympathetic environment from the opening moments of the show, and is relentless in drawing you into the sisters’ world. There are moments in Animal where you feel like you need to look away as the horror unfolds, but even if you do (which you shouldn’t), the sounds are so vivid that they create the visuals for you regardless. There is one moment particular, where along with Andy Turner‘s lighting design, the shadows that form along the walls and menacingly envelops the two sisters involves some nail-biting tension and panic.

All these elements work meticulously together to support the two performers on stage. Sherman and Wilks show strong commitment, strength and stamina in their challenging roles. The duality (and also the blending) of playful sisters who depend on and support each other to hyper-aggressive fighters has a complexity that the two are able to authentically create on stage. The need to swap between these “characters” in seconds is not only a physical demand on their bodies but also an emotional and psychological one.

As with SHIT and The Long Pigs, Dee’s direction allows for moments that make us laugh, surprise us, and haunt us. With a show like Animal, pacing is extremely important and Dee ensures that there are adequate breaks between the truly dark moments of the show, so that by the time we reach the powerful conclusion we are completely engaged with the piece.
While there is no dialogue in Animal, it speaks volumes regarding the immense impact domestic violence and violence against women has on women: the violence that they experience and also the violence that it breeds. Compelling, gruelling and masterful work by Influx Theatre, Animal is raw theatre at its finest.

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda

Season: Until 27 November | Wed – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $26 Conc, Under 30, Groups 8+

Bookings: Theatre Works

Image by Pier Carthew

REVIEW: Patricia Cornelius’ SAVAGES

Seething, unsettling – and superb

By Scarlett Harris

This may make for a boring review of Patricia Cornelius’ Savages at fortyfive downstairs as I really couldn’t fault it. The acting, writing, lighting, sound and blocking were flawless, not to mention the grave subject matter that left the audience truly affected.

Savages Photo Credit Sarah Walker

Savages centres around four late-thirty-something/early-forty-something men on the boys’ trip of a lifetime aboard a cruise. George, Runt, Rabbit and Craze discuss their failed relationships, unfulfilling jobs, fragmented childhoods and for those with kids, their struggles raising them. There’s a lot that’s implied but not outright said: Runt was beaten by his father; George is seeing Craze’s ex-wife; not to mention the ambiguous and utterly frightening ending.

Through the choreography, we see the impact that competition among mates can have: comparing scars, running races, the exhilaration of brawling. Savages explores themes of modern masculinity, fatherhood, love, sex and violence, tapping into notions of pack mentality, the phenomenon of “nice guys”, domestic and intimate partner abuse and drug-facilitated date rape.

Said intimations of date rape occur in the cruise nightclub, which is created with only the use of thumping bass and strobe lights by sound engineer Kelly Ryall and lighting technician Andy Turner, respectively, evoking the breathless, menacing machismo that the club experience can so often be.

The acting by Lyall Brooks (George), Luke Elliot (Runt), James O’Connell (Rabbit) and Mark Tregonning (Craze) was exceptional, and the juxtapositioning of the redeeming qualities of “nice guys” – loving their mothers, kids, women in general – with the misogynistic underbelly these characters possess is a truly haunting representation of modern manhood that, for some men, isn’t necessarily inaccurate.

The use of the slanted, exposed floorboards to construct the stage really conjures not only the cruise ship (not to mention the continued use of water metaphors – drowning, rebirth) but the hierarchy of mateship, with Runt on the bottom and (arguably) Craze at the helm.

One thing I did find a bit disconcerting at first was the “highly rhythmic, poetic” dialogue, and the only actor whose portrayal I couldn’t 100% connect with was O’Connell’s, but I put that down to nerves, perhaps.

At once a funny, sad, pitiful, scary and altogether realistic portrayal of modern masculinity – and the inherent “savage” misogyny that sometimes goes with it – in all its glory.

* contains some nudity and disturbing content, and employs the use of strobe lights.

Savages is on at fortyfive downstairs until 8th September Tuesday to Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm and Sundays at 5pm. Tickets $45 full, $37.50 concession.