"An experience that will leave you shattered, but reflective."
Merciless Gods is a difficult production to watch. Christos Tsiolkas' anthology of short stories, adapted by playwright Dan Giovannoni and directed by Stephen Nicolazzo, come alive on the stage in a series of brutal, uncompromising vignettes, sordid glimpses of Australian life with a sprinkling of gallows humour.
These tales are not for the faint of heart - mothers, refugees and junkies bare their souls in disturbing monologues that weave their way through death and hardship, improper thoughts and graphic acts of sex and violence. In one, a dying father commits assisted suicide attended by his family; in another, a naked, drunk and bitter mother raves at her daughter and daughter's partner as they announce they're moving to Australia.
Where Merciless Gods succeeds is in crushing disgust and empathy into unexpected equilibrium. While Tsiolkas' characters often feel beyond saving, true dregs of society, is it impossible to ignore their humanity; our empathy reveals to us the forces which have driven them to that bleak point. The stories are darkly fascinating, repellant but irresistible.
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And the atmosphere is nothing to sniff at, either. In the snug confines of Griffin's Stables Theatre, the lyrical dialogue takes on a sinister intimacy. Characters writhe on the narrow strip of stage, performing tortured choreography in the often-smoky air. Merciless Gods is an experience that will leave you shattered, but reflective.
Griffin Theatre presents Little Ones Theatre's Merciless Gods until 25 Nov.