When death looks you in the eye, whom do you turn to? Your psychologist? God? … Or Lance Armstrong? Playwright,  Daniel Tobias  seeks answers to these, and other penetrating questions, in his new work The Orchid and the Crow.

The work is described as a tragi-comedy about faith, sex, identity and ritual, and is part of the Coopers Malthouse resident artist initiative.  For Tobias, it is a personal reflection on his real life (and almost death) experiences.

"Hearing other peoples stories gave me so much strength and perspective when I was going through cancer treatment. One of the things that makes sense of going to such a dark place is the idea of paying it forward and sharing my own story. Hopefully it helps people that might be going through similar situations. I felt that after 10 years if I didn’t start talking about it now, I would regret it. If I was a visual artist, I might have painted something, but I like making theatre, so that’s where I started."

The Orchid and the Crow is as it should be – a solo performance – revealing much of Daniel's secular Jewish life and how one incident could have been the catalyst that unhinged it all.  At eight days old Daniel’s parents chose to have him circumcised. Having not read the fine print in the Old Testament, this unknowingly triggered God’s ongoing contract with the Hebrews. In return for following his rules, God promised to look after the Israelites.  

At 29, Daniel is an atheist, single and living the life of a bohemian artist in Carlton. And lo, God was not pleased! Appalled with Daniel’s lifestyle choices, God makes an example of him and appears on earth to smite him with stage three testicular cancer. Stage four is death.

Along with Tobias' interest in faith, stories and ritual – and the way these things shape us – the play travels a very non-traditional route toward salvation. "I hope my work encourages people to question what is ’normal’," says Tobias.

As Dan prepares for his upcoming treatment he is left in a spiritual vacuum. He is reaching for faith in something, but he’s certainly not going to find it in a deity who has already stolen one of his balls. Instead, Daniel finds salvation in an unlikely modern messiah, seven-time winner of the Tour de France and testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.  But, now, of course, Armstrong is a fallen angel and after Daniel’s full recovery, he wonders – how many times will he be cheated by a God? 

The work  also features original songs from the award-winning writers of Die Roten Punkte of which Tobias is co-creator and writer. The multi award winning group have been almost constantly on tour in North America, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and the UK since 2007. As well as his work with DRP, Tobias is described as a theatre maker, performer and writer. He toured with the multi-award winning show Keating! – The Musical in Brisbane and Darwin and played the “Spiegel Host” in Casey Bennetto’s ‘Largely Fanciful History of the Spiegeltent.” He has had lead guest roles in television shows such as MDA, Blue Heelers, Neighbours and Good Guys Bad Guys.

The Orchid and the Crow has been a work in progress for  almost two years. Tobias wanted the work to be really fun to do so he gave himself the task to tell each chapter in a form that was the most interesting or engaging. This strategy has paid off, says Tobias: "It has become a lot of fun. I get to sing, dance and tell stories."

Tobias' story is not unique but the telling is. The Orchid and the Crow has a lot to say about the fickle tale that is life and the haphazard nature of the tenebrous tightrope that crosses to the other side.

February 13 – 22