Loaded: The “deep passion project” premiering at Malthouse Theatre

Loaded: The “deep passion project” premiering at Malthouse Theatre
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Australian author Christos Tsiolkas’ first novel Loaded is being reimagined for Malthouse Beckett Theatre this coming May, with director Stephen Nicolazzo at the helm.

As the director responsible for bringing the much-loved classic of Looking for Alibrandi to the theatre last year, Mr Nicolazzo said it was “really exciting” to be working with Mr Tsiolkas and playwright Dan Giovannoni on another iconic Australian story.

“Having this incredible opportunity to develop a creative relationship with my favourite novelist in Australia is a pretty extraordinary thing, and getting to watch him tackle his first novel again after all these years, as an adult, is really interesting,” Mr Nicolazzo told Southbank News.

Written almost 30 years ago, in 1995, Loaded follows the character of Ari who is a young 19-year-old who is restlessly searching for himself and ways to ease his loneliness.

He doesn’t want to be gay or Greek, and he is trying to find an escape in Melbourne’s nightlife.

“To me, Loaded will always be a love letter to Melbourne,” Mr Nicolazzo said.

“It’s a story about a young Greek queer man’s experience of this city, and he is exploring his sexuality, his cultural identity, and looking for freedom in a world that is really against cultural difference.”

“It’s joyous, exhilarating, sexy, thoughtful, and angering … and from the perspective of a 19-year-old guy.”

After the novel was published in 1995, it was adapted into an award-winning film three years later, and then reimagined, with Malthouse Theatre, as an audio work in 2020 when the pandemic put a halt to the stage production.

And now, after the long wait, the creative team have really delved into the story and character through making it a solo work, with actor Danny Ball playing Ari.

This format allows for a deep dive into Ari’s point of view and explores new storytelling avenues that couldn’t be replicated in a novel or film.

“I went to Christos Tsiolkas and the playwright Dan Giovannoni, and asked what it would be like if we revisited Loaded, now that it had been 30 years since he wrote it, and what it would be like if we had Christos retelling his story but set in the 21st century and having that queer elder voice and millennial generations voice coming through the character of Ari,” Mr Nicolazzo said.

“So, from that moment on, we played, we explored, and it’s been five years in the making. I guess it’s a deep passion project.”

While the story explores Ari’s mindset of wanting to escape, it also celebrates Greek culture and Ari’s cultural journey. And the audience can expect to hear both Greek and English spoken throughout the play.

Loaded also relies heavily on an “incredible soundtrack”, brought to life by composer and sound designer Daniel Nixon, to move the story onward, and to speak into Ari’s ability to get lost in the music around him – making it a highlighting addition between the honest and raw moments explored onstage. •

Showing: May 5 - 28th, with the official opening night May 10th

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