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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Loaded (Malthouse Theatre) - 95 minutes, without interval

Updated: May 12

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.

That may well be the signature tune for 19-year-old unemployed, reckless, gay Australian Ari (Danny Ball), except that his “poison” is grunge and hip-hop.

Ari is drawn to Melbourne’s gay clubs, unprotected sex, hard drugs (it is dead set easy to get hold of stuff) and thumping music.

He distances and denounces his parents, who are most disappointed in him.

Photos by Tamarah Scott

Loaded is 24 hours in the life of this young man, in which a lot goes down.

Published in 1995, it was the first novel by Australian writer Christos Tsiolkas.

Three years later, it was adapted into the film Head On, before being reimagined as an audio adaptation in 2020.

Director Stephen Nicolazzo (Looking for Alibrandi) joins writers Dan Giovannoni and Christos Tsiolkas (The Slap) in presenting Ari’s anarchic odyssey as the latter trawls the length and breadth of Melbourne’s ‘burbs.

Loaded is gritty, raw and raunchy. It is full on, pulling no punches.

Danny Ball is a ball of pent-up energy who goes likes the clappers for 95 minutes, not missing a beat.

In a superb portrayal, he conjures vivid mind pictures. He transports us to where Ari goes – the scene, the smell, the taste.

It is a hell of a script that Ball channels with visceral distinction, giving it voice and nuance.

Variously dressed and undressed, Ari’s journey is not one for the feint hearted. At times, it is ugly and brutal. Then again, there are moments of ecstasy.

The sound, set and lighting design are vital and effective in bolstering just how “real” this production feels.

Loaded comes across as a slice of the seedy side of life.

It is strictly one for mature audiences, who can handle frequent coarse language, explicit references to sex acts – consensual and non-consensual – homophobic, misogynistic and culturally derogatory slurs, and multiple drug references.

It is playing at the Beckett Theatre, at Malthouse Theatre, until 3rd June, 2023.

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