Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

Ambrosia, SFF 2014

0 Comments 01 October 2014

Grumpy Mandrake Theatre examines the lives of mythical creatures in the twenty-first century in the multi-playwright project Ambrosia – a commendable venture, especially in the face of the zeitgeist of spirituality in our modern and cynical generation. In non-converging short plays, five legendary creatures Succubus, Siren, Werefox, Selkie, Naga are reborn unnoticed in present day Sydney, and battle with human issues, despite their mythical origin. 

Although a Succubus is usually portrayed as a belligerent demon, Ethel only self-actualises her powers when she seeks to avenge a lost friend, it is always thrilling to watch an interrogation, especially when the tormentor has supernatural powers and flexes voodoo control over her captive. This was cleverly adapted to stage through compelling acting at Nathan Farrow’s direction. Sam Nixen’s Succubus was, surprisingly, a skinny and unpopular Ethel whose powers had a direct correlation with her self-confidence. Interestingly, unlike traditional myths, Ethel was motivated not by evil but by her love of a human friend, which reflects a modern, pluralistic understanding of good and evil. Although the script was at times overwritten, it was passionate, authentic and sustained its intrigue.

In contrast, the Werefox tale is much more light-hearted, as an attached girlfriend discovers her boyfriend is a Werefox and handcuffs him to the bed right before he changes. While this play had humorous elements, the acting combined with a mildly cliché script produced an entertaining performance that avoided digging into deeper themes and was more akin to a skit than a short play.

The Selkie delved into fascinating themes about ownership and slavery, which erred on modern understandings of abuse. This play is about women who find themselves giving their hearts away to love too easily without realising its ramifications until its too late. The acting is commendable and the script explored the notion of misplacing and forgetting our identities when we lose ourselves in relationships.

The story of Naga, a hindu and buddhist deity, investigates the growing sidelining attitudes towards religion as the Naga is portrayed as an agoraphobic cripple dependent on government payments. A social workers interviews Naga to help him regain a sense of belonging, but alas Naga does not fit into the boxes that need to be ticked.

The series concluded with a heavier and darker play about a modern Siren, exploring free will and idealistic ambitions, as the Siren pursues a record deal and manipulates her brother into becoming a better person.

Overall, each play examined notions of belonging and the zeitgeist of mythology in a contemporary world. Without an overarching vision, each play scratched the surface of a variety of themes without a clear intention. The audience’s engagement was sustained primarily through the novelty of modern mythology rather than the essence of each character’s story. Nevertheless, Sam Nixen’s line writing and creativity is impressive, fluid and compelling.


Reviewed by Anne Lau

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This post was written by who has written 3 posts on Buzzcuts.

Anne has recently completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), majoring in Government and International Relations and History. She is a participant of Playwriting Australia’s Lotus Salon, currently studies writing for performance at NIDA and maintains a theatre blog at She has also been involved in curating exhibitions for VIVID and Head On Photography Festival and has assisted with coordinating poetry slam events. Anne loves theatre that confronts audiences with the sociological realities we live in. This comes from a belief that individuals are threads in a larger, complex and dynamic social fabric and a passion to reflexively make sense of what it means to be human here and now.

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