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The Gods of Strangers to return for online season

Dina Panozzo and Deb Galanos in The Gods of Strangers

State Theatre Company’s hit 2018 play about post-war migrant experiences in Port Pirie will head online next week for what playwright Elena Carapetis says is “the next best thing”.

“Like a lot of people who love the theatre I’ve been going to National Theatre Live screenings, seeing things happening around the world at the local cinema,” Elena Carapetis tells The Adelaide Review.

“The production values of those recordings are amazing, so when [director and former State Theatre artistic director] Geordie Brookman and I talked about what it would take to record this show, he was really insistent that it wouldn’t happen unless it was a beautiful quality recording of the play.”

Inspired by oral histories of Greek, Cypriot and Italian migrants, and drawing from her own family’s experience in post-war Port Pirie, Carapetis’ multi-lingual and very South Australian story struck a chord with local audiences during its original 2018 run. It made the decision to invest in faithfully capturing the production for posterity – or an unexpected pandemic – a simple one.

“Every show in the season had a strong, positive reaction, they were just so delightful, but there was something about the Port Pirie audience, especially the first preview, where it was like a football match. The most alive theatre I’ve ever sat in – people were calling out, there was laughter in three waves from people speaking English, Greek and Italian.

“And so many people who saw it said, ‘oh my gosh you should go to Mildura, Renmark, Darwin’; there are people all over Australia who could relate to that story, it isn’t just about Port Pirie. So Country Arts SA were going to screen it in cinemas regionally around the state, and when they couldn’t do that because of COVID, they came up with the idea of streaming – which I think is really exciting too because it means more people will be able to see it.”

Sia Duff
Elena Carapetis

Brookman and Country Arts SA enlisted local production company KOJO to capture the play during the second week of its Adelaide run. Like the play, the recorded version will feature surtitles in Greek, Italian and English, and will be accompanied by a Facebook Live Q&A session with Carapetis and star Renato Musolino on Sunday 28 June.

With State Theatre Company’s 2020 season derailed by COVID-19, it will be a rare opportunity for local theatre-goers to revisit or catch up on this highlight of the 2018 season. While some companies like Australian Dance Theatre have been able to dig out high quality performance recordings from their vault, while emerging production team Tiny Bricks recently shared a new work devised and performed via Zoom, there’s been an understandable reluctance to share archival work perhaps not intended for release as a hasty COVID stopgap measure.

While Carapetis is also wary of the limitations of live recordings compared to the real deal, this carefully captured record of The Gods of Strangers promises to be a rare treat for theatre fans and the production team alike. “It was a three or four camera set up, and I think they recorded two shows and took all the footage away and edited it together.

“And it’s beautiful, it’s the next best thing to being there. The only thing you miss is that the audience’s reactions aren’t as front and centre – you don’t feel the same things as when you’re one of the bodies in that space, exchanging that energy. But you still feel the amazing performances the actors are giving, you get the writing, the music, the set.”

In the meantime, Carapetis will continue spending her COVID-induced exile from the stage on creating new work – with another commission for State Theatre Company on the way. “I’ve been busy,” she says.

The Gods of Strangers will stream online from 22 – 29 June

Walter Marsh

Walter Marsh

Digital Editor
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Walter is a writer, editor and broadcaster living on Kaurna Country. His work has appeared in Rip It Up, The Saturday Paper, Smith Journal, Royal Auto, Swampland Magazine, Broadsheet and The Thousands.

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