Review: Sunderella (ARA Darling Quarter Theatre)

Venue: ARA Darling Quarter Theatre (Sydney NSW), Mar 1 – 4, 2023
Playwright: Kunal Mirchandani
Director: Bali Padda
Cast: Nickin Alexander, Aria, Sheila Dickshit, Mohini Dixit, Kashif Harrison, Adish Jain, Zeenat Parveen, Rani, Shabnam Tavakol
Images by Dusk Devi Vision

Theatre review

In this version of a very familiar story, the prince is left with a bangle instead of a glass slipper, to look for the woman of his dreams. Also different in this new iteration of the tale, is that the woman turns out to be a man, who had gone to the ball, dressed in drag. Kunal Mirchandani’s Sunderella moves the story to Mumbai in 1762, for a queer reframing of a classic love story, that should prove more appealing to the many who are tired of the heterosexual dynamic, so obstinately central to virtually all of our fairy tales.

Comical yet tender, Sunderella contains both ironic humour and innocent romance, blended together for a delightful show catering to kids of all ages. Director Bali Padda imbues a delicious camp sensibility throughout the piece, and along with choreographer Zeenat Parveen, deliver something that shimmers reflexively, both on the surface, and from within its vivacious heart. Costumes by Parveen, Shurobhi Banerjee and Mishty Lal, are gloriously assembled, and lights by James Wallis are just as spectacular, for a production that satisfies with its visual sumptuousness.

Parveen further impresses, as performer in the role of The Goddess, with sparkling charisma and a marvellously disciplined physicality, that provides some level of polish, to a presentation that is otherwise memorable for its stable of raw talent. Shabnam Tavakol is strong as the vicious Stepmother, leaving no ambiguity regarding her malicious intentions. The handsome Prince Nirad is played by Nickin Alexander, who brings a valuable earnestness that gives the storytelling a believable anchor. The titular part of Sunderella is shared by Mohini Dixit and Adish Jain, both demonstrating good commitment, to elicit our emotional investment into their show.

The ease with which Prince Nirad was able to adjust to the discovery, that his love is more a man, than a woman, is indeed a refreshing change from what feels like a centuries-long fabrication, that the only appropriate response for a situation of this nature, is panic. It may be with Sunderella that we learn to re-classify the prince as pansexual, or it may be that we learn to ameliorate the way we understand gender, so that those who are disadvantaged because of gender disparities, can begin to live reclaim all they deserve.

In Rehearsal: 1790: A Tale Not Often Told

Rehearsal images above from 1790: A Tale Not Often Told by Founding Modern Australia.
At Darling Quarter Theatre, from Nov 13 – 15, 2014.
More info at

5 Questions with Lasarus Ratuere

lasarusratuereWhat is your favourite swear word?

What are you wearing?
10.Deep and Rick Owens.

What is love?
Love is… rolling around in bed with fresh sheets, a fresh grilled fish salad, glasses with the umbrellas in ’em and my family.

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
The Effect, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
It’s gonna be a spectacular ride of heart, laughter and landscape.


Lasarus Ratuere is appearing in 1790: A Tale Not Often Told, with Founding Modern Australia.
Show dates: 13 – 15 Nov, 2014
Show venue: Darling Quarter Theatre

Review: Trafficked (Darling Quarter Theatre)

traffickedVenue: Darling Quarter Theatre (Darling Harbour NSW), Jun 13 – 15, 2014
Playwright: Carli Carey
Director: Carli Carey
Cast: Sorcha Harrop, Amy Fisher, Michael Smith, Jace Pickard, Isaac Reefman

Theatre review
The play begins with television news reports from a commercial station about the subject of human trafficking and modern slavery. As is often the case with commercial news, the stories are sensationalist, and the network’s watermarked logo exists almost as a reminder to take everything we see with a grain of salt. Of course, its themes are genuine, but we have learned as a society to remain sceptical about the things we are told, and we demand concrete evidence before outrageous claims can be believed.

Trafficked tells horrific tales of young Australians in captivity and enslaved. They look and sound like any young adult we know, and are even of Caucasian appearance. The play subjects them to incredible cruelty, and tells their stories with earnest fervour. The characters are intertwined and build relationships with each other, but everything they say is addressed directly to the audience. It feels like documentary, but there is absolutely no indication that their words are not entirely fiction. Their stories are unbelievable, and we struggle to be convinced by anyone.

Performances are uneven, but Michael Smith and Sorcha Harrop work hard to make their parts meaningful. They have good focus, and show excellent commitment in tricky moments of melodrama. Smith has a good presence that makes him the most memorable element of the production. Harrop succeeds in encouraging some empathy, and impresses with the stamina she displays for her arduous role.

Technical aspects are very lacking. Light and sound design are poorly judged, and execution seems to go awry from start to end. It is obvious that there is a serious lack of experience in the crew, and it is unfortunate that a more accomplished production manager had not been assigned to assist and nourish this young crew.

Every project in the arts is an opportunity to grow. Director Carli Carey and her team have not created a masterpiece on this occasion, but they have succeeded in turning talk into action. They have put money where their mouths are, and are therefore one step ahead of those who dream but do nothing.