Review: Surreal and unhinged, ‘To Schapelle and Back’ is an Australian-Gothic extravaganza

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Review: Surreal and unhinged, ‘To Schapelle and Back’ is an Australian-Gothic extravaganza

To Schapelle and Back
words by sidonie bird de la coeur

Part sketch comedy, part musical, this deep dive into the psyche of two tortured women is a delightfully nightmarish show that dissects the Australian obsession with an imprisoned woman.

A one woman Australian-Gothic extravaganza where Alex Hines plays both Schapelle Corby and herself, it’s a mixture of breakneck hilarity interspersed with moments of tragedy. It’s an unhinged existential crisis of a show, but at its heart, it’s a feminist story about surviving mental health and trauma.

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It’s 2005 and Alex Hines is having a shit birthday. Blockbuster has closed, her dad has drowned and she’s just found out that she’s plagued by the ancient doppelgänger curse. Visited by the ghost of her father, she is sent on a quest to reunite with her twin spirit – Schapelle Corby – in order to prevent the apocalypse from descending upon the earth. The show is every bit as delightfully unhinged as the concept makes it sound, as Hines distils the media obsession with Corby into her own surreal story.

Barrelling through nightmarish scene after scene, the audience is left to question who’s on stage at any given time – is this Schapelle? Is it Hines? Is it both of them at once? It’s effectively confusing, with the audience themselves strapped in for a rollercoaster of emotions.

To Schapelle and Back is inspired by Hines’ real-life friendship with Corby who spent nine years imprisoned in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison for bringing 4.2 kilograms of cannabis into Bali in a boogie board case. Sentenced to 20 years in prison without a fair trial, the show is a dissection of witch trials by the media – a recognition of mental illness, trauma and the public’s dismissal of a young woman’s suffering.


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A post shared by Alex Hines (@hines.sight)

Alex Hines is a brilliant one person performer, bringing charisma and lots and lots of energy into her stage presence and the breakneck pace in which she transitions between characters. In a notable scene where she plays both a teacher and her timid, younger self, Hines transitions between the two people with lightning-fast speed and precision. Not confined just to the stage, Hines makes effective use of multimedia segments, which are perfectly timed and placed to facilitate hilarious costume changes.

With a great Twilight parody bit, a segment about Schapelle Corby’s decent into serious mental illness displayed as a Big Brother segment and an appearance of a resin clock gifted to Hines by Schapelle Corby herself – there’s plenty of highlights in this show.

Drenched in Australian nostalgia, To Schapelle and Back is absurd, surreal, chaotic and dreamlike fun. It’s no surprise that this show was Winner of the Golden Gibbo Award at the 2022 International Comedy Festival – it’s great. If you get a chance in the next couple of days, definitely go see it.


To Schapelle and Back is showing now at The Butterfly Club. It’s running from May 23 – May 28.
Tickets: $35 Full or $31 Concession
Grab your tickets by heading here.