Tag: Susie Dee

Review: Anthem

A stunning, contemporary triumph

By Owen James

“These are urgent times,” speaks one character in the opening scene. Four words that foreshadow the next two hours, and that have stuck with me since. Anthem presents a snapshot of contemporary Australia, inspired by a piece from 21 years ago called ‘Who’s Afraid Of The Working Class?’ that was written by these same five highly influential writers, and at that time presented a snapshot of Australia in 1998. Anthem is possibly the most important piece of theatre presented in Melbourne this year, and we are so very lucky to have a collaboration of this scale to represent our turbulent country.

Five stories converge, variations on a theme by Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irene Vela – all inspiring, intuitive writers whose collective voice is dynamic and conquers definition (and whose individual works of brilliance live permanently on my bookshelf). Their intertwining pieces cover racism, classism, privilege, and economic instability, and together crescendo into a call to arms against the prejudice and discrimination inherent in our stilted political system. It’s beautifully shocking and overwhelmingly resonating.

Masterful direction from Susie Dee creates a cohesive theatrical experience that is measured and expertly crafted. Her handling of this mammoth undertaking ensures the hefty thematic content is accessible throughout, creating an undoubtedly gargantuan yet also deeply personal experience for the audience. Her cast of fourteen are a perfectly balanced company, filled with the same flavours of diversity we see when we leave the theatre on the streets of Melbourne. Their varied backgrounds aid in demonstrating touching, accurate depictions of unnerving but realistic characters. Every actor’s separate performance is honest and mesmerising, but they seamlessly blend together as one perfect ensemble.

Composer Irine Vela underlines every scene with an extraordinary score that, while performed only on violin and double bass, fills the Playhouse with the sound of a full orchestra. The skilfully timed compositions focus our attention on the text with a driving pulse that continuously escalates.

I couldn’t have higher praise for Anthem. It’s a thrilling concoction by visionary professionals at the top of their game, where two hours passes like two minutes. Moving and ambitious, this flawless reflection of our “urgent times” had a terrifyingly short season of only seven performances as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival. Anthem should be compulsory viewing for every Australian concerned with taking a stand against justice and inequality – and even more compulsory for those who aren’t. Anthem will stay with me for a very long time.


Photograph by Pia Johnson

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’ SHIT

Wonderful, gritty and real

By Deborah Langley

With the most natural, raw, uncomfortable and hilarious opening monologues we have probably ever seen in Australian theatre, Patricia Cornelius’ Shit smacks you in the face and commands you to sit up, strap yourself in and FINALLY start paying attention to the women and girls who defy our social order and expectations.


These are the underbelly of womenhood we as a society so rarely want to admit exist. The women we try and ignore when walking down the street and would never sit next to on the tram. You know the type, the ones whom some would callously say “were asking for it”…

Shit tells the stories of three of these types of women, Billy (Nicci Wilks), Bobby (Sarah Ward) and Sam (Peta Brady) as they come to terms with their past, of abuse, rape, suicide, bashings (“Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time”), and shines a light on the bleak harshness of our society (“What right have you got to want?”)

Moving effortlessly and gracefully from gritty sarcasm to shocking realism, I often found laughter caught in my throat as what started as jovial banter turned sharply into an intense truth which is perhaps too hard to swallow without the humour. With this, Shit takes you on an emotional journey which is given breathing space beautifully by director Susie Dee and the physical theatre which is interspersed throughout the performance.

An outstanding performance I should add, as rapid fire dialogue is spat like bullets, particularly by Bobby (Ward) who gives venom to her words. While Billy (Wilks) moves from frighting to loveable and back again in an instant, is captivating to watch, but it is Sam (Brady) who takes our heart as the most vulnerable of the pack.

Shit is independent theatre at its best. It has something to say and from that first opening monologue you just want to hear it. How refreshing it is to see such captivating work being staged at a mainstream theatre – maybe now their voices can be heard by the many. Will you listen?

SHIT by Patricia Cornelius
Season: 25 June – 5 July 2015
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Tickets: $25 each
Booking: 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au

Image by Sebastian Bourges


A blank sheet and a black crayon

By Myron My

In Waking Up Dead, writer Trudy Hellier explores what happens to a woman when her husband dies in an unexpected and shocking way, only then to discover he was also leading a double life.

With direction from Susie Dee, Caroline Lee succeeds in captivating our attention with her portrayal of the grieving woman. Her fragility is evident throughout and you can see her slowly unraveling as she recalls moments of her life with her husband, leading up to that fatal moment and beyond.

Caroline Lee in Waking Up Dead_Photo Credit – Andy TurnerHer dialogue is delivered earnestly and from the heart, and Hellier has created a script that really captures the emotions and reactions a person feels when not only someone they love dies, but also someone they love turns out to not be who they thought they were. Ian Moorhead’s sound design is used effectively with interspersed sound bites throughout Waking Up Dead. TV news reports and police interviews all point to the inevitable and add more despair to Lee’s character’s story.

The set design by Callum Morton is simple yet demanding of our interest – it comprises of a single white sheet of paper that rolls down a wall and onto the floor upon which Lee then draws in her bedroom and its furniture (including a desk, bed and bookshelves) with a black crayon. As her memory becomes more confused and in turn, becomes more agitated and frail, so does the appearance of her room as she rubs things off and smudges things out.

Waking Up Dead is a beautiful production and exploration of what it is to grieve and lose someone you love and how at the end of the day, we can only ever put faith in our memories to remind us of the people in our lives.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: Until 14 September | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc
Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events or 9662 9966

REVIEW: Insite Arts Presents THE LONG PIGS

Hilariously dark and frighteningly funny…

By Myron My

Firstly, if you have a fear of clowns, then this show is probably not for you but it doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t go see it. The clowns in The Long Pigs are not your traditional-looking clowns (for the most part).

These guys are dirty and dark with black noses, and are hell-bent on collecting the red noses of other clowns…


The uncanny ability that performers Clare Bartholomew, Nicci Wilks and Derek Ives (who along with director Susie Dee, also devised the show) have to use something as small as a facial expression or taking a step to make their audience get actual stitches from laughing is testament to their darkly funny skills as clowns.

Even with minimal dialogue and the unsettling atmosphere, the cast are able to both convey a strong story and evoke sympathy and empathy from us over their individual and group plights. In fact there are some very suspenseful moments interspersed throughout The Long Pigs which form a great contrast to the more ‘traditional’ clowning that occurs.

All the stage elements blend perfectly in the performance to help create this grim world that is thrust upon us – especially Jethro Woodward’s excellent sound design and composition, as the constant changes from cheery to eerie amplified all the action that was going on on stage.

Furthermore, Anna Tregloan’s nicely creepy set design reminded me of a haunted house-cum-butcher shop with variety of seemingly random objects just strewn about covered by bloody white sheets, and the atmospheric lighting design by Andy Turner was reminiscent of a carnival freak show tent with dim lights casting larger sinister shadows in the background.

So even if you do have that fear of clowns (or coulrophobia), The Long Pigs is a show that still needs to be seen. Even though it’s only March, I can confidently say that this is going to be one of my highlight shows of the year, because how often can you simultaneously be completely entertained and utterly creeped out by the one show?

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: Until 23 March | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5pm

Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events or 9662 9966