Performance review: Appeasing Nergal, FRINGE WORLD, WA

Three circus performers try to entertain themselves during lockdown.
Appeasing Nergal. Three performers attempting to balance wine glasses in front of a sofa against a black backdrop.

The Appeasing Nergal marketing blurb announces that audiences will witness ‘some mind-bending tricks and wild theories on the wrath of ancient gods’. 

Being a mythology nerd, this interviewer’s interest was piqued. Google “Nergal” and you will discover he was an ancient Mesopotamian god of war, famine, death and destruction. ‘Woah… so, a heavy night of abstract, hard-hitting, experimental performance art?’ you may think and gird yourself for the onslaught. 


What you will actually see is a very funny circus show about three charming dudes (Ben Kotovski-Steele, Simon Wood and Luke Forester) trying to entertain themselves during lockdown, while periodically being traumatised by dystopian news stories. It is absolutely hilarious. 

These guys do a great line in understated and laconic Aussie humour –  in the way that only Aussie guys can do. They have a lovely, authentic rapport and repartee born from the years-long friendship they’ve enjoyed and the fact that they actually did live together during lockdown. 

The conceit for the show is an epiphany Kotovski-Steele had while leafing through a book on mythology, and coming up with the notion that maybe the god Nergal created COVID to slap us mortals around for ignoring him so long. 

The others dismiss his theory and settle down to watch the news. What follows is a hysterical doom and gloom sound edit basically telling the lads the world has come to an end, and they’re well and truly f***ed. It has the audience in stitches and the performers quaking in their shoes. 

They try to brush it off with Uber Eats. Afterwards, the acrobatics begin with a very funny routine involving oversized chopsticks and wine glasses, followed by a bunch of games many people may have played during lockdown: Twister, Jenga (played with the aforementioned chopsticks) and Rubik’s Cube, as well as a serious poker game in which the currency being gambled with is toilet rolls. 

They return to the news, this time treating us to hysterical sound edits by Remix Matrix, with (former NSW premier) Gladys Berejiklian and (former WA premier) Mark McGowan as crazed dictators. The lads freak and pull out a very funny Men in Black routine in response. Their antics become wilder and more absurd as the show progresses (I particularly liked the Jeff Bezos parody) until they finally decide they need to appease Nergal with a bizarre sacrifice ritual, which had this reviewer again in stitches. 

Having lost two close family members in the last three years, I have been well and truly kicked in the guts by the wrath of Nergal. 

The beautiful message I took from this show was that the way to appease him is to hang out with fun friends, go see lots of Fringe comedy and laugh a lot. I walked out of the theatre with a big smile on my dial – for once able to shed the dreadful weight of grief and loss. I was lit up by the gods of light and laughter, and immediately booked tickets to see Kotovski-Steele’s other Fringe show Thicc Jesus, which is outrageous, irreverent and utterly hilarious.

Read: Theatre Review: Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, Sydney Festival

Appeasing Nergal is a great hour of entertainment for those who want to put aside the woes of the world and tread lightly for a little while. Do yourself a favour. Go see it, have a laugh at COVID and bask in the warm glow of mateship and camaraderie.  In these dark, woeful times, thank the gods for Fringe … and for delightful performers like the boys from Acrobatch. 

Appeasing Nergal

The Parlour at The Pleasure Garden
performers:  Ben Kotovski-Steele, Luke Forester, Simon Wood
Tickets: $30

Appeasing Nergal will be performed until 11 February 2024.

Tiffany Barton is an award winning playwright, actor and independent theatre producer who has toured shows to Melbourne, London and New York. She has a BA in Creative Writing from Curtin University and an MA in Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts.