REVIEW: A well-known Australian story told with a twist in Matthew Ryan’s ‘Kelly’

ad astra kelly stage show
Photo: Supplied

Tucked away in Fortitude Valley, Ad Astra is the dedicated space of a theatre company passionate about creating performance work that delivers beyond expectations. It’s here that the iconic Australian story of Ned Kelly has been retold with an unexpected and creative twist in Matthew Ryan’s Kelly, writes Michael James.

In the final hours before the execution of Kelly (Richard Lund), the audience file to their seats past Ned sitting dejected in a cell in the centre of the room.

This sets the tone for the next 90 minutes of a performance so intimate the audience could literally reach out and touch the characters before them.

Ned’s famous story springs to life in the refreshing Kelly, directed by Scott West and Mikayla Hosking, inspired by the oft-repeated rumours that brother Dan Kelly did not die in the famous fire at Glenrowan in 1880.

Disguised as a priest, young Dan Kelly, played by the captivating Patrick Shearer, visits Ned in search of something. Is it forgiveness, clarity or revenge he seeks?

The encounter is tense. Dan and Ned recount the night at Glenrowan and Dan’s escape. The younger brother discloses his plan to escape to a new life in Queensland, abandoning Ned to the gallows.

The two actors deliver stellar performances as their characters unpack and revisit tales of their bushranging days. Each brother shares his own version of the events as they grapple with the morality of past decisions.

Richard Lund is a quirky angry Ned, beset with deteriorating mental health, the performance haunting though punctuated with dark humour. Richard takes the character through incredible highs and lows with exquisite pace and precision.

As Dan Kelly, Patrick Shearer is an exceptional talent. From the moment he enters the room he commands the space with a poise and calm that draws the room’s energy toward him.

Interestingly, the script delves into a speculative relationship between Dan Kelly and gang member Steve Hart. Speculation on this alleged relationship has been the subject of vague rumours for years and here the topic is explored creatively as Ned and Dan quibble over the turn of events.

The exploration of the potential love story and of the lengths Dan Kelly would have been willing to go, add depth and character to an already engaging performance.

Ad Astra and their creative team have delivered a perfect performance well worth a greater run in a larger venue.

With productions of The Female of the Species, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Equus planned for this year, Ad Astra is a space well worth watching.

Find out more about Ad Astra’s upcoming performances at

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