Merciless Gods

By Dan Giovannoni after Christos Tsiolkas
Arts Centre Melbourne
Season: 6-10 February, 2019
Northcote Town Hall
Season: 25 July – 5 August, 2017
Sydney, Griffin Theatre
1 & 2 November, 2017
Season: 4 – 25 November, 2017
DIirector: Stephen Nicolazzo
Writer: Dan Giovannoni
Based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas
Producer: Jo Porter
Set and Costume Design: Eugyeene Teh
Lighting Design: Katie Sfetkidis
Sound Design: Daniel Nixon
Dramaturgy: Chris Mead
Production Manager: Gwen Gilchrist
Stage Manager: Ruth Blair (Melbourne)
Tour Co-ordinator: Rebecca Poulter
Jennifer Vuletic, Sapidah Kian, Peter Paltos, Paul Blenheim, Brigid Gallacher and Charles Purcell.

Presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy, Griffin Theatre Company and Little Ones Theatre.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.



Where do the Gods live? Down here, in the sewers, with us…

Ancient Gods were cruel and capricious. In this collection based on the writings of acclaimed author and observer Christos Tsiolkas, humans are their prey. Or the fallen themselves.

Vicious and tender, here is Australia today. From migrant camps to gay saunas, pill-popping hipster dinner parties to porn sets, prison cells to the streets of the Cross, Merciless Gods captures haunting slices of our psyche and unveils the hidden faces of ancient deities on mortal ground.

Intercutting between families, friends and accidental encounters, this is humanity laid-bare – virtuous and vengeful, domestic and divine.

Tsiolkas has entrusted this first ever stage adaptation of Merciless Gods to award-winning queer indie wunderkinds Little Ones Theatre, and award winning playwright Dan Giovannoni. In the hands of these theatre makers this is urgent, dirty, glorious theatre.

Merciless Gods played to sold out houses in both Sydney and Melbourne, was critically acclaimed and featured on several Best of Melbourne and Sydney Theatre lists. It was also nominated for 5 Green Room Awards in 2018, including: Best Production, Best Writing (Dan Giovannoni), Best Performer (Jennifer Vuletic, Paul Blenheim, and Sapidah Kian). Merciless Gods won the Green Room Award for Best Writing and Best Performer (Jennifer Vuletic).

In 2018,  Merciless Gods received two Alternative Helpmann Awards by Time Out Melbourne including: Best Melbourne-Premiered Play and Best Ensemble.

In 2019, this award winning production will return to Melbourne as part of Midsumma Festival at Arts Centre Melbourne, playing in the Fairfax Studio from February 6th-10th.

Featured in: The Age’s Top 10 Theatre Shows of 2017, Time Out’s Best of Sydney Theatre 2017, The Music’s Best of Theatre 2017, Kevin Jackson’s 2017 Sydney Theatre Year in Review (Australian Writing, Direction, Performer- Jennifer Vuletic), and Sometimes Melbourne’s What I Loved Yearly Review.

★★★★★ “This is powerful, confronting and sublime theatre, a howl of anguish from those lost to the cracks and demanding to be heard” Kate Rose, Herald Sun.

★★★★★ “This is the gritty underside of Australia, the kind of places, people and situations that are brought down and into disrepute by our main stream contemporaries and media outlets. It takes no prisoners and it’s bleak bordering on the dystopian. Nothing can prepare you for this level of awesomeness, it is the very best independently produced local theatre we have seen so far this year. This work is important and will be spoken about for some time to come”
Jessi Lewis, TAGG

★★★★½ “Breathtaking and shattering… These gutting scenarios, one after the other, are offered as a succession of exquisite exhibits in a museum of rarefied pain; unspeakable ordeals forged into golden monuments.  Director Stephen Nicolazzo continues to cement his reputation as one of Melbourne’s – and dare I say, Australia’s – most dynamic and creatively assured theatre makers…every gesture of this production finds a hard-won, supremely accomplished equilibrium between the beautiful and the barbaric ”
Maxim Boon, The Music.

★★★★½ “A striking and fearless affair… Sharp staging, evocative direction, a powerhouse script, and a troupe of performers all at the top of their game…this is provocative contemporary theatre at its best”
The Lowdown Under

★★★★ “Queer theatre outfit Little Ones is a leading light on Melbourne’s indie scene.  In adapting Christos Tsiolkas’ short story collection Merciless Gods, they break new theatrical ground. Dan Giovannoni’s script is talented and Nicolazzo directs charged performances with an earthier hue than usual. Neither flinch from the disgust and discomfort, nor the piercing of delusion, Tsiolkas demands. Though not for the squeamish or easily offended, Merciless Gods is compelling, confronting theatre.”
Cameron Woodhead, The Age.

★★★★ “This is an outsider play made by outsiders, and it’s this lived-experience advantage that gives the work its complex and rewarding layers: brutal, tender, and unsentimentally queer. It’s a harsh theatrical landscape, but a lyrical one: the language is dazzling – insidious and vicious and suddenly gentle but never sweet. It sets aside the dominant voice of Australia – its conservative government, its patriarchal and racist positioning of the white male above all others – and instead places front and centre the silenced mothers, the rebellious women, the immigrants, the queers. It demands your attention”
Cassie Tongue, The Guardian.

★★★★ “Nicolazzo and Giovannoni tell these stories with great taste and restraint, and the potential discomfort is usually displaced by surprising feelings of empathy and compassion for the enormous suffering of those on stage.”
Ben Neutze, Daily Review.

★★★★ “For the characters of Merciless Gods, the traumas of our shared history have left a stale stain in the soil that emerges into the personal and domestic with rage and force. There is no weak link in this cast. Stephen Nicolazzo’s direction cuts the right frame. The atmosphere becomes thick in the tiny Griffin Theatre, helping to fill the space with scents of Tsiolkas’ writing – smoke, sex and shit.”
Sophie Gillfeather-Spetere, Arts Hub (Sydney)

★★★★ “The stories are darkly fascinating, repellant but irresistible. 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.”
Sam Baran, The Music (Sydney)

“Giovannoni’s script lets us into the hearts and heads of Tsiolkas’ characters. Its easy to connect with lovely people; its confronting to connect with- and easily laugh with- people who you’d never look at in the street or are happy to pretend don’t exist”
Anne-Marie Peard, Sometimes Melbourne

“Merciless Gods is confronting stuff. But those who fall under its dark spell will leave feeling elevated.”
Jason Blake, Sydney Morning Herald

“Merciless Gods is a harrowing, provocative, moving, funny, breathtaking night in the theatre. Little Ones Theatre is a company that resonates with excellence. Brilliant.”
Liddy Clarke, Stage Noise.

“A compellingly acted, emotionally vivid and atmospheric work, the eight tales delighted to rapturous applause”
Sarah W, The Plus Ones.

“Porn shoots, prisons, migrant camps and festering teenage boys’ rooms – the raw, incendiary scenes of acclaimed Melbourne novelist Christos Tsiolkas spring to life like a contemporary, sex-drenched Greek tragedy in the hands of Little Ones Theatre. The gender bending, queer Melbourne company has done great justice to the first adaptation of Tsiolkas’ 2014 collection of short stories, evoking beauty out of darkness and tenderness out of brutality. This play is a must see and deserves to be taken to the rest of Australia.”
Annika Priest, Australian Stage

“Visceral theatre, utterly alive”
Richard Watts, Triple RRR