Schapelle, Schapelle: clever, insightful, funny

Author: Dr Suzie Gibson
Publication Date: Sunday, 23 Sep 2018

Schapelle, Schapelle, the headline production of the current 2018 SPRUNG Festival at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Bathurst, is here reviewed by Dr Suzie Gibson, senior lecturer in English in the CSU School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The review was first published on Arts Hub.

The SPRUNG Festival and Schapelle, Schapelle are staged by final-year theatre media students in the CSU School of Communication and Creative Industries in Bathurst and Cycle Productions.

Schapelle, Schapelle review:

As the headline act for Charles Sturt University’s annual ‘SPRUNG Festival’ – a two-week theatrical event – Schapelle, Schapelle is a sensation.

This musical comedy about Schapelle Corby’s infamous Bali drug bust and subsequent 20-year prison term (that was eventually reduced to nine years) provides a hilarious take on her family and the media frenzy that surrounded her.

This is not the first time that Corby’s life has been turned into a musical comedy. In 2014, the University of Sydney Union hosted Schapelle! The Musical.

One might assume that this earlier production, staged at a sandstone institution, would overshadow any subsequent effort to cover the same terrain.

But Charles Sturt’s theatre/media teachers and students have yet again proven that regional universities are centres of equally great talent, innovation and creativity.

Schapelle, Schapelle (the title evokes the fictional film Rochelle, Rochelle, a running gag in the 1990s TV series Seinfeld) is an inventive and extremely witty production that showcases the skills of numerous musicians, lyricists, singers, dancers, writers, and actors.

Upon entering CSU’s Ponton Theatre, audiences are immediately delighted by an extremely droll set featuring canary yellow boogie boards; these are inscribed with the slogans ‘Corby Fever 2005’ and ‘Schapelle’s Media Circus’.

The boards are decorative but also utilitarian − they operate as partitions separating a trio of musicians from the actors on stage. The musicians − Gabbi Bolt, Andrew Worldon and Daniel Gualterio − make an excellent threesome. Their individual and collective talent is virtuosic.

Also adorning the stage are kitsch Hawaiian tassels juxtaposed against fake bamboo. The beaches of Bali and Queensland are channelled through these decorative touches which transport the audience into subtropical environments. Indeed, what really elevates this musical comedy is its utterly ‘troppo’ humour.

Lead performer Mitch Lourigan is someone to watch. His acute sense of comic timing and ability to change into a series of characters − from Corby’s father to a random crooner, a cheesy journalist and, finally, assuming the identity of the Bali 9’s Renae Lawrence − is no easy feat yet he makes it seem effortless.

Riley Holland, who plays Schapelle’s brother Mick, is another rising talent who proudly announces himself as a tattooed Brisbane Broncos supporter. His sister Mercedes Corby (Emily Waterson) is another comic standout whose facial expressions and vocal abilities push the boundaries of even this edgy comedy.

Schapelle’s mother, Roseleigh Rose, played by Hannah Armstrong, is yet another performer to follow. Her hilarious obsession with making an ‘upside down pineapple’ cake is evocative of another influential Queensland matriarch, Flo Bjelke Petersen, who was famed for her pumpkin scones.

And then there’s the titular heroine Schapelle, the only ‘straight’ character in the mix. This is a difficult role to pull off and yet Sonia Dodd does it perfectly.

The scriptwriting and lyrics by Gareth Thompson, Jack Dodds and Mitch Lourigan cleverly nail down archetypal Australian types such as the ocker and the bogan.

In this very intelligent production, we are also prompted to consider powerful media forces that have played a large role in shaping our perception of Schapelle and her family. Here I must mention the ensemble journalists − Greygryn Holgate-Gorton, Barnaby Donaghy and Lewis Mitchell − who adopt various media roles and characters throughout. Their contribution is outstanding.

This production is extraordinarily clever, insightful and funny. It has pace and energy that captivates well after the final bows and applause. Schapelle, Schapelle is not to be missed!

Rating: easily 5 stars out of 5.

Schapelle, Schapelle is currently being performed at Charles Sturt University’s Ponton Theatre from September 19th until 29th

Tickets for the 2018 SPRUNG Festival are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and can be booked online here:


Media contact: Dr Suzie Gibson, 0418 669 362

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews.

Photo by Ms Bree Davey: A scene from Schapelle, Schapelle - obscured back left is Lewis Mitchell, front left is Emily Waterson, centre is Sonia Dodd, and Riley Holland is on the right.

Director: Abby Gallaway

Book and Lyrics/Production Manager: Gareth Thomson

Book and Lyrics/Composed/Musical Director: Jack Dodds

Book and Lyrics/Lead Performer: Mitch Lourigan

Composer/Lyricist/Associate Musical Director: Gabbi Bolt

Stage Manager: Alexandra Vidler

Assistant Stage Manager: Sophie Scanlon

Sound Designer/Engineer: Sam Mulligan

Costume Designer: Pearl Junoir

Lighting Designer/Operator: Adrian Vincze

Set Designer: Gabrielle Aubrey

Schappelle Corby: Sonia Dodd

Mercedes Corby: Emily Waterson

Roseleigh Rose: Hannah Armstrong

Mick Jnr: Riley Holland

Ensemble/Assistant Production Manager: Lewis Mitchell

Ensemble/Assistant Set Designer: Barnaby Donaghy

Ensemble: Greygryn Holgate-Gorton

Percussionist: Daniel Gualterio

Guitarist: Andrew Worldon