Q44 Theatre is repertory group known for bringing top – drawer plays to Melbourne. In several short years, the boutique company has established and solidified itself as the go – to destination for high – quality drama.
Since they began operation in 2014, Q44 Theatre has earned critical and consumer praise for ‘Dolores’ (by Edward Allen Baker), ‘Orphans’ (by Lyle Kessler), ‘Spike Heels’ (by Theresa Rebeck), ‘Kafka’s Monkey’ (by Franz Kafka and adapted by Colin Teevan), ‘Fool For Love’ (by Sam Shepard), ‘Savage In Limbo’ (by John Patrick Shanley), ’Sister Cities’ (by Colette Freedman), ‘Sex With Strangers’ (by Laura Eason), ‘Shining City’ (by Conor McPherson), and ‘Hurlyburly’ (by David Rabe).
Playing for a strictly – limited season at Gasworks Theatre (located in the beachside suburb of Albert Park), their latest challenge celebrates the life of renowned Greek author, Nikos Kazantzakis (1883 – 1957).
Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature nine times, his published works included Zorba the Greek (1946), Christ Recrucified (1948), Captain Michalis (1950), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). On top of these distinctions, Kazantzakis wrote a number of plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays. He also translated notable classics into Modern Greek, such as the Divine Comedy, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Iliad.
Posthumous global fame was achieved, thanks to two of his books, Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation of Christ, being adapted for the big screen.
Howard F. Dossor is a Melbourne – based author who was profoundly influenced by Kazantzakis. First drawn to Kazantzakis’ work in 1958, Dossor has since released four separate books about the writer. They are:
- Nikos Kazantzakis;
- The Existential Theology of Nikos Kazantzakis;
- Nikos: Readings in Kazantzakis; and
- NK: A Kazantzakian Montage.
Penned by Dossor in 2015, NK: A Kazantzakian Montage has been both adapted for the stage and directed by Suzanne Heywood. A solid example of existential, experiential and experimental composition, Heywood’s inspired vision paints a man very much a master and servant to his own talent.
As the title suggests, in Q44 Theatre’s care, the play is very much about the episodes, individuals and situations that shaped the protagonist’s creative voice. With a running length of two hours (plus a twenty – minute interval), the unencumbered structure allows his linear story to breathe freely at all times.
Dossor’s narrative uses two of Kazantzakis’ works, Report to Greco and Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises, as the basis of his publication. As a play, Act One concentrates on the subject’s background. Whereas Act Two takes viewers deeper into Kazantzakis’ mind and the creative process.
Without giving too much away, the show’s biggest hook stems from placing Kazantzakis at the core of these two works. In essence, he becomes the leading character in his own books.
Expert stagecraft (with artistic direction from Gabriella Rose – Carter, lighting design by John Collopy, and sound design by Justin Gardam) informs the journey, characters and incidents which touched and shaped Kazantzakis’ personal and professional life. From time to time, striking costumes and simple props play a key part in telling his story as well.
Musical composition from Pantelis Krestas gives the show an authentic, personal touch.
Supported by a nine – strong ensemble (William Atkinson, Nicole Coombs, Sebastian Gunner, Tania Knight, Elyssia Koulouris, Erin Lilia, Paul Pellegrino, Kostas Ilias Philopoulos, and Tabitha Venesis), the actors perform double duty as both a Greek Chorus and the people with whom Kazantzakis came into contact.
Alex Tsitsopoulos is the glue holding this entire experience together. As Nikos Kazantzakis, the actor communicates a complex, soulful and driven artist of many hats.
The intimate theatre in the round experience normally associated with Q44 has been replaced with a more traditional set – up. Instead, the initial connection between the players and the audience, uses a children’s dance troupe (Members of the Pancretan Youth) to draw viewers in.
Potentially the biggest difference between this work and other Q44 Theatre productions, is the choice of venue. Where previous pieces took place at their black box home base in Richmond, here, the luxury of space allows this epic tale to spread out.
Playing for six performances only until Friday, the Q44 Theatre team have done themselves, Kazantzakis and Dossor justice in bringing this vital, important and atmospheric work to life.