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STEVE MARESCA plays Norman Bruhn

As an actor, people often ask me if it is hard to play a “villain”?

Norman Bruhn was a notorious and violent Australian dockworker, armed robber and standover man with links to the criminal underworld in both Melbourne and Sydney. Bruhn’s criminal gang used the straight razor as a weapon of terror. They are attributed as Australia’s first ‘razor gang’ at the beginning of gang violence in Sydney in the late 1920s, known as the ‘razor gang wars’.

As an actor, people often ask me if it is hard to play a “villain”? An actor cannot see “heroes” or “villains” with who they are portraying, only people. Reading Norman’s life story, I saw a man full of ambition to be at the top of the table, and he would not let anyone get in his way. History was a favourite subject of mine in school, and to get to tell these stories of a turbulent time in Sydney’s history is quite a joy.

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CHRIS MILLER plays Jim Devine

He was placed on the spectrum of morality

I was very fortunate to lead Razorhurst True Crime Walking Tours in King Cross for a while, having plenty of time to understand Jim Devine’s story before starting rehearsals. Knowing that Jim was originally a Sapper that went AWOL, then met a mid-teen Matilda Twiss (soon to be Tilly Devine) in London and convinced her to come to Australia to help tend to his “Kangaroo Farm”, it was pretty clear where he was placed on the spectrum of morality.

 

He would control drug addled prostitutes with cocaine, paying their wages in the “snow” to keep them hooked. He and Tilly would have parties (shavoos) early into the morning, then massive fights involving weapons, shooting each other on multiple occasions. Jim would get heavily intoxicated, blow all his money on the punt, then stand over and bash Tilly for more money. On one occasion, he separated Tilly’s jaw from her face with a long neck bottle. She still gave him money and didn’t report the assault. He certainly was a piece of work.

 

So, I just program that character into my psyche. I’ve played many different people of history, including Lt Peter Handcock, serial killer Lennie Lawson, Defense Attorney Hugh Lusk and career criminal Kevin Simmons to name a few. Building a character is one thing, craft another, yet there is also something to be said for letting all the work go and just being an open channel for the spirit and energy of the individual to enter, as if I’m a radio antenna tuning into their frequency. That’s where the magic happens.  

 

Letting go of them once the job is done is equally important.

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DONNA RANDELL plays Lillian Armfield

Portraying a trailblazing Australian policewoman

I was very fortunate to lead Razorhurst True Crime Walking Tours in King Cross for a while, having plenty of time to understand Jim Devine’s story before starting rehearsals. Knowing that Jim was originally a Sapper that went AWOL, then met a mid-teen Matilda Twiss (soon to be Tilly Devine) in London and convinced her to come to Australia to help tend to his “Kangaroo Farm”, it was pretty clear where he was placed on the spectrum of morality.

 

He would control drug addled prostitutes with cocaine, paying their wages in the “snow” to keep them hooked. He and Tilly would have parties (shavoos) early into the morning, then massive fights involving weapons, shooting each other on multiple occasions. Jim would get heavily intoxicated, blow all his money on the punt, then stand over and bash Tilly for more money. On one occasion, he separated Tilly’s jaw from her face with a long neck bottle. She still gave him money and didn’t report the assault. He certainly was a piece of work.

 

So, I just program that character into my psyche. I’ve played many different people of history, including Lt Peter Handcock, serial killer Lennie Lawson, Defense Attorney Hugh Lusk and career criminal Kevin Simmons to name a few. Building a character is one thing, craft another, yet there is also something to be said for letting all the work go and just being an open channel for the spirit and energy of the individual to enter, as if I’m a radio antenna tuning into their frequency. That’s where the magic happens.  

 

Letting go of them once the job is done is equally important.

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Juanita Nielsen The Final Days

Juanita Nielsen The Final Days is live in the crypt Thursday to Saturday 28 September to 14 October 2023.

Explore NSW notorious cold case, the disappearance of Juanita Nielsen.

A powerful woman who sprang from privilege and adventure. Angered by development plans to demolish the best of Victoria Street Potts Point architecture and displace low-income residents, Juanita stirs the community and bonds with powerful unions to take on the corrupt developer, the Kings Cross underworld, NSW Government & Police and possibly the CIA. But at 10.45am Friday 4th July 1975 Juanita walked into Kings Cross, reportedly for a meeting with Eddie Trigg, Manager of Carousel Club (home of Les Girls). She was never seen again. This is her story.

You’ll meet Juanita, the protesters, the gangsters, the police and be a patron of Les Girls!

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Story of Frank Theeman and Abe Saffron

Frank Theeman and Abe Saffron were two of the most notorious figures in the history of organized crime in Australia. Both men were involved in a range of illegal activities, Abe in drug trafficking, prostitution, and extortion, Frank in corrupting public officials, violently outing tenants in Victoria Street and possibly murder. Both were known for their connections to powerful political and business figures.

Frank Theeman was a post war immigrant. owner of a lingerie company was a wealthy developer and hotel owner who operated in the Kings Cross area of Sydney during the 1960s and 1970s. He was known for his involvement in the Sydney underworld, and was linked to a range of criminal activities, including violence towards tenanted of his properties and corruption.

Abe Saffron, meanwhile, was a notorious crime boss who operated in Sydney during the same period. He was known as the “King of the Cross” and “Mr Sin’ due to his dominance of organised crime in the Kings Cross area. He was involved in a range of criminal activities, including illegal gambling, prostitution, drug trafficking and corrupting public officials.

Both men were also likely linked to the disappearance of anti-development activist Juanita Nielsen in 1975. Nielsen was an outspoken opponent of a proposed high-rise development in Kings Cross, and it is widely believed that her activism made her a target for developer and organized crime bosses, including Theeman and Saffron.

Despite their involvement in a range of illegal activities, both Theeman and Saffron managed to evade justice for many years. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s, after years of investigations and legal battles, that the full extent of their criminal activities began to come to light.

Today, Frank Theeman and Abe Saffron are remembered as two of the most notorious and influential figures in the history of organized crime in Australia. Their legacies serve as a reminder of the dangers of unchecked power and corruption, and the ongoing need for vigilance in the fight against organized crime and injustice.