"Read the book first,” they always say. But the first time I stumbled across Loaded, Christos Tsiolkas’ thrilling 1995 debut novel and hedonistic love letter to Melbourne, it was via Ana Kokkinos’ exhilarating movie adaptation Head On. Living half the world away in Glasgow, I might not have known the trundle of trams down Sydney Road or the way St Kilda’s palm trees cling to the great sweep of Port Philip Bay, but the sights, sounds and seediest back rooms of the city burst to recognisable life.
And then there was wild child Ari, queer, hungry, confused and angry teenage drug-dealing bad (but good) boy, as played with astounding swagger and staggering good looks by Alex Dimitriades. Our backgrounds were different, but our battles to square away the competing facets of our lives overlapped. I knew what it was like to loathe elements of myself, and to worship at the altar of excess. I could taste the tang of his misadventures. Ari was out of control. But he was a survivor. This was something new. Unapologetic
I can’t tell you how many times I watched that VHS or devoured Tsiolkas’ searing novel. So I came to Loaded understanding it could burn bright across platforms. I was psyched to see playwright Dan Giovannoni (Cut Snake) and director Stephen Nicolazzo (Merciless Gods, The Happy Prince) bring it to life at the Malthouse. But like Ari’s best laid plans, that didn’t quite pan out, thanks to you know what. But just like Ari, they got back up on their feet and now we have an ast