Review: Merciless Gods

Taking the stage at Northcote Town Hall, Little Ones Theatre Company’s adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ scorching Merciless Gods is a striking and fearless affair. Sharp staging, evocative direction, a powerhouse script and troupe of performers all at the top of their game (with a stratospheric turn from Jennifer Vuletic) – this is provocative contemporary theatre at its best.

None of Tsiolkas’ cyncial potency is lost in playwright Dan Giovannoni’s adaptation of his novel, his tropes are ever present here and brought forward to full effect across eight vignettes in two acts. Throughout Tsiolkas’ brutal judgements on religion, sacrifice, race, sexuality, drug use, suicide, multiculturalism and identity, an undercurrent of humanity does exist. Tying the everyday actions of our humanity to being bound to a God or Godlike presence, these stories tears holes to through the very foundations that we base our Western lives on. Are we really that faithful? Are we faithless? If there is a God (or Gods), why do such awful things happen to us? Are we just delusional pleasure animals serving our own egos? It’s these elements that Giovannoni’s script bring to the fore and, under the direction of Stephen Nicolazzo, is brought starkly to life on stage.

Performed by Paul Blenheim, Brigid Gallacher, Sapidah Kian, Peter Paltos, Charles Purcell and Jennifer Vuletic, all of whom play various roles in these vignettes, Merciless Gods comes at you with an unrestrained vitality of dialogue. Pervasive and honest, there’s a palpability in the interactions on display that hit home for a daring audience. With the opening tale centred around who has the best story of revenge, the show wants you to face the darker sides of self. From there you journey through tales of the migrant experience, addiction, celebrity, taboo, pornography, disconnection, sexuality and death.

There is daring here. A fearlessness on stage that this company serves to you, it’s a brave and evocative choice from Nicolazzo who brandishes the show on a sharp ‘shard’ of a stage. His decision to strip back the set and, in some cases, the cast only works to the show’s impact and advantage. This is about the performances and the dialogue, both of which more than provide the palette for the show. Special mention must be made of Jennifer Vuletic who towers here, she is absolutely magnetic on stage. Watch this space – she’s on the rise!

Merciless Gods is a provocative and engaging piece of contemporary theatre. It is bursting with biting commentary, vitality, cynicism and humanity. Sporting an outstanding script, sustained direction and a fearlessly dynamic cast of performers at the top of their game, this is a must see event on the theatrical calendar and shouldn’t be missed.

★★★★1/2

MERCILESS GODS by LITTLE ONES THEATRE plays until 5 AUGUST, 2017 at NORTHCOTE TOWN HALLBuy your tickets here