BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

17/01/2024 - 20/01/2024

Six Degrees Festival 2024

Production Details

Co-Writer/Director: Kathy Keane
Co-Writer/Co-Production Manager: Tom Smith
Co-Writer/Co-Production Manager: Jimmy Williamson

Keane As Theatre & Believable Arts Management

Limbo is an original, modern Kiwi adaptation of 1300s epic poem, Dante’s Inferno. David Noble is a washed-up comedian riding on the coattails of fame from years past. Against his best wishes, he is plucked from his debauchery by the benevolent spirit, Virgil. Career, legacy, family – everything is on the line. As they peel back the layers of wrongs never righted, David is forced to confront the sins of his past to better his future. Limbo explores Dante’s original themes of morality, ethics, and loyalty, through a modernised lens.

Limbo is the 60 minute, comedy-drama debut by director, Kathy Keane. Co-written by herself, Tom Smith, and Jimmy Williamson. Presented by Keane As, in association with Believable Arts Management.

BATS Theatre, ‘The Stage’.
17-20th January 2024
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Stage Manager: Phoebe Robertson
Set Designer: Nathan Arnott
Set Builder: Lachlan Oosterman
Co-Lighting Designer: Josiah Matagi
Co-Lighting Designer/Operator: Ethan Cranefield
Sound Designer/Operator: Roco Moroi Thorn
Costumier: Hellena Faasili
Graphic Designer/Publicist: Cate Sharma

David: Ben Lamb
Virgil: Ava O’Brien
Male Twin: Blake Boston
Female Twin: Sophie Helm

Theatre ,

60 minutes

Fantastic chemistry and engaging flow

Review by Shemaia Dixon 18th Jan 2024

Quick disclaimer: as is common within the theatre scene in Wellington, I have friends among the cast and crew of Limbo.

Limbo is a modern stage adaption of the 14th century poem Dante’s Inferno (see The Divine Comedy) adapted for the Six Degrees Festival. The festival showcases the work of Masters of Fine Arts students at Victoria University. Limbo was spearheaded by masters students and Co-writers Kathy Keane, Jimmy Williamson and Tom Smith. The show also features sound design and operation by masters student Roco Moroi Thorn.

Dantes Inferno is an Epic Comedy about Dante’s Journey through the nine layers of Hell, to the residence of Satan himself. Dante’s journey through Hell and his journey out of Hell symbolise the soul’s journey toward god and explores the human condition, sin and punishment. The ‘Inferno’ is the first in a three part series, the second being ‘Pergatorio’, Dante’s journey through a place of suffering, reflection and moral change, and the third being ‘Paradisio’, Dante’s Journey through the nine celestial spheres of Paradise and back to our world.

Limbo means ‘the edge of something’, In the ‘Inferno’, Limbo is the first layer of Hell, the edge. Traditionally, Limbo holds those who were either unbaptised or born before Christ. Dante adds his guide, ancient Roman poet Virgil and other ‘virtuous’ pagans to Limbo. Those in Limbo suffer from knowing there is a Heaven, but they can never enter it: a rather light punishment compared to the other eight circles of Hell.

As soon as I walk into the BATS Stage space, I’m intrigued by the two doors either side of the stage as well as the train carriage in the centre. The train carriage resembles a typical train but it’s also designed to fit perfectly within the otherworldly narrative of Limbo. The set design is a testament to the talent of set designer and builder Nathan Arnott and set builder Lachlan Oosterman.

The play itself is enticing and draws you in. Anyone who has read Dante’s inferno knows how the poem plays out, but they haven’t seen it quite like this. There is a distinctly New Zealand feel to Limbo. It perfectly captures the essence of Dante’s Inferno and modernises it. The storyline is fairly predictable, even to those not familiar with it; it feels like a typical self-reflection story. However, it manages to feel both familiar and enticing regardless of the audience’s familiarity with The Divine Comedy.

Actors Sophie Helm and Blake Boston play the twins. It’s unclear if the Twins represent any specific characters in the ‘Inferno’. These characters instead seem to represent more general spirits or ghosts. The Twins aim to guide David Noble, but seem to have much harsher methods than Virgil. They have the ability to morph into others, taking the forms and movements of David’s acquaintances and family members. At the drop of a hat the twins can return to their true, almost demonic selves. Helm and Boston show astounding versatility and talent, taking on the essence of many different characters while maintaining, at their core, an otherworldly quality. The way the Twins switch so quickly between characters, and the janky movements they embody to do so, are fascinating.

Ben Lamb is very interesting as David Noble. Noble takes over as protagonist of the story and comes across as a typical, self-centred man. Lamb is able to take the audience on a journey with a character that we don’t like but still relate to. By the end, the audience grows to have hope for, and (almost) genuinely like David Noble.

Virgil is considered one of the greatest Latin poets and is the author of the famous Aeneid. In the ‘Inferno’, Virgil is a resident of Limbo, as well as Dante’s guide through all nine layers of hell. Dantes Virgil is a representation of human reason, particularly how it is powerful, but is no match for faith in God. Dante’s Virgil is wise and commanding, but unable to protect Dante from Hell’s true dangers. Ava O’Brien manages to embody and evolve the essence of Virgil in the best way. O’Brien’s Virgil contains a whimsical quality that perfectly contrast with the seriousness of Lamb’s David (especially when she’s wearing clown pants). O’Brien also brings the power to Virgil that anyone would expect. The flowing quality of her movements contrast perfectly with the Twins and the balance of Virgil’s whimsy and power are seamlessly balanced within O’Brien.

Moroi Thorn’s Sound design is a testament to their hard work. The sound design for Limbo captures the eerie feel of Limbo itself and sets the scene in a way that would be impossible without Moroi Thorn. This is paired perfectly with lighting design by Josiah Matagi and Ethan Cranefield, immersing the audience in a way that makes you feel like you’re in Limbo with David.

Limbo is a fantastic show for so many reasons. The cast has fantastic chemistry and brings so much talent to their characters. The hard work of the crew shines through in the form of the quality of the show. Keane, Williamson and Smith have clearly put a lot of heart into Limbo and the engaging flow of the play is evidence of all their hard work.


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