A performance created and performed by artists and ex-offenders.


“I was laughing, aching and close to tears … The Chat skilfully captures the impossibly fine line parole officers must tread…“ 

The Australian

The Chat is a unique collaboration between director J R Brennan and renowned writer-performer David Woods of award winning cult comic duo Ridiculusmus (UK). Ignited by Brennan’s experience working as a parole officer in Sydney’s Long Bay Gaol, the work emerged from a series of performance workshops that Brennan ran with performance maker and choreographer Ashley Dyer for ex-offenders in the Melbourne area. Created in collaboration with participants from these workshops and leading criminologists, it is a work that fundamentally challenges our notions of criminal identity, and asks the audience to play judge.

The theatre becomes the tense, liminal space where an offender stands on the brink of freedom. In the tough, frightening beauty of the heavily surveilled interview room, ex-offenders co-create a live performance score that is littered with improvisatory mind bombs and reels kaleidoscopically around the threshold of entrapment and freedom.

Unravelling our fantasies about crime and redemption in a radical utopian vision of a possible future justice system, performers David Woods, JR Brennan and Ashley Dyer lead ex-offenders through the performance score and are at times led by them. Factual-fictional roles are switched, the offender becomes parole officer and interviews a mirror of themselves, testing and digging into the past. Shifts in power come thick and fast as the inherent authority dynamics of the parole interview format become clear. In the final moments of the performance audience join ex-offenders in a sequence of framed power plays that conjure and interrogate the spectre of imprisonment that continues to haunt the Australian psyche. Their task it to decide: Should this offender be released into the community? And under what conditions?   

In August 2016 The Chat was presented at Arts House, Melbourne. The entire season sold out prior to opening night and achieved national media coverage, reflecting a strong public interest in the topic of criminal justice in Australia, at a time of shifting sands in legislation and public attitude.

“An astonishing collaborative work that leaps into the deeper reality of justice.. like many of those in the room I could have stayed in this realm for many more hours. It will stay with me for much longer. “ 

Realtime Arts

“This is an important piece of theatre; it is brave, it is unfair, it is harrowing.” 

XS Entertainment

2016 marked the beginning of a new partnership with Dr Anna Errikson and Monash University’s Criminology department to explore the possibility of the artistic work feeding into new research around the working alliance between performance, corrections and offenders.

Winner: Green Room Awards 2016

Best Male Performer  (David Woods), Contemporary and Experimental Performance 

Nominated: Green Room Awards 2016

Best Production, Contemporary and Experimental Performance 


J R Brennan – conceived by / performer /sound & set design / lead artist

David Woods – co-creator / performer / script wrangler

Ashley Dyer – workshop facilitator / performer / collaborator

Alex Davies – systems designer / control box engineer

Nick Maltzahn – performer

John Tjepkema – performer

Arthur Bolkas – performer

Tye Luke – performer

Nick Apostilidis – performer