Starweaver 2024Madness of Two. The Void. Flinders University Drama Centre. 26 Jun 2024


So much of yesterday’s science fiction has come to pass that it makes one wary of fictional prognostications. Let’s hope that Starweaver does not follow the pattern. 

It is scary.

Certainly Jamie Hornsby and Ellen Graham, acknowledged and considerably awarded now as bright lights of promise on the theatre scene, have thrust their Madness of Two company far into the future, to the year 2149, wherein A.I. blurs reality and it takes fearless activists to thwart ghastly capitalist domination. Only those who can afford to do so may view the starry night sky in their nightmare of tomorrow. Heroine of the time is Cato, a genius A.I. engineer who, in ragged traveller clothes, carries hacker technology in an old-school backpack. 


The production, in The Void at Flinders Drama Centre, is an intriguing mass of anachronisms, on the whole highly aesthetic with design by the renowned Kathryn Sproul. Indeed, the play is directed by State Theatre’s Shannon Rush and comes in under the wing of the 2024 Stateside season and developed under the Australian Writers' Guild David Williamson Prize along with the State’s InSPACE program. There is a lot of professional clout behind it - and a LOT of the latest technology. 


It transforms The Void into a strangely warm womb of a performance space seating just thirty-four. It is both intimate and immediate theatre dominated by a large cyclorama. Thereon is projected a fearful future-world: spacecraft interiors, giant tech corporate factory corridors, open spaces occupied by cloned virtual protestors, a Mars space station, city and sky-scapes, and even the verdant interior of a biosphere. The curve of screen warps proportions and adds to the weird experimental feel of the world out there. The images are huge and sensationally high-res.  They’ve used CGI, motion capture, and videogame technology and the creditable credits include Mark Oakley as technical director with Paul Goodman on sound.

The actors onstage interact with the filmed characters and, on occasion, mime movements as if within the locations. This is not always convincing but, when the tech blending works, it produces some quite jaw-dropping moments.


It is really immersive theatre. With the close proximity of the actors and the massive immediacy of the screen images, there are times when one feels enveloped despite the sci-fi absurdity of it all.


The plotline is old-school goodies versus baddies with a healthy anti-corporate-greed political heart.  Venal capitalism would have us pay to look at the stars.

Mark Saturno onscreen makes a fabulous champagne-sipping baddie. It’s a lovely performance which threatens to steal the show. However, Ellen Graham is the star of the show as Cato, the valiant genius activist hacker. It is an exhausting role by the time she has finished being brutalised by future rays from a virtual maniac villain and conjuring her brother from a cyber egg thingie. It has been indeed a strong and committed performance. Hornsby, her co-writer of this work, plays Cassius, counsel and fellow hero. His costume is some interesting layered trenchcoat look, half Columbo and half complicit sage. The costumes are puzzling. There are Starweaver mystics in black cloaks like Macbeth’s witches and fellow henchmen in civvies. Clones are in sports attire with boots. Heroic Terra, played by Maeve Hook, is in quasi machine-gun battle gear. Then there is Mark Aspen played by Brett Archer up there on the screen, chic and villainous in a sleek metallic-hued formal suit.  


It has taken a large village to create this 90-minute work with full marks to Jason Bevan and the Flinders University Visual Effects and Entertainment Design students.

It is out there and ambitious and dangerously balanced on its dependence on tech reliability. Its preview performance fell foul of a tech issue. 

This brave new creation follows Madness of Two’s triumph with the five-star kids’ show Claire Della and the Moon.


What a contrast. What an interesting young company. What on earth or elsewhere will it do next?


Samela Harris


When: 26 Jun to 6 Jul

Where: The Void, Flinders University Drama Centre