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Cockroach_HERO_featuring Leah Donovan ph


Photography c. Clare Hawley 


Cockroach is a hilarious prose poem/grunge cabaret about female anger. Disrupting Kafka’s and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Melita Rowston and Leah Donovan address the issue of violence against women with more violence! There will be no apologies. We are done with smiling politely.


When C wakes from a nightmare, she finds herself transformed into a monstrous vermin. For too long, she’s been told there’s something wrong with her. For so long, she’s yearned to behave badly. Tonight’s her night of reckoning!


Join C on a bloodcurdling bar crawl as this avenging exoskeletal anti-heroine rises from the ashes of abuse to become the true definition of a pest.


Part free verse poem, part dance theatre, part grunge cabaret, this riotous urban-noir adventure subverts the patterns of rape in Ovid’s Metamorphoses to explore the silencing that follows abuse and the transformations that occur recovering from it.


Broken by brutal love, C searches for a way to discard her armour and be seen.

Continuing their collaboration born during the Sydney Mardi Gras hit MilkMilkLemonade (2013). Writer/Director Melita Rowston and performer Leah Donovan aim to find a loophole of laughter in the tragedy of abuse, to dance the badness out so healing can take place.


Featuring a live score by Benito Di Fonzo smashed together with vintage Casio, percussion and Fender Strat, Cockroach is also about peeling off our armour so we can be seen.


“When women feel anger, they feel guilty, so they turn it on themselves. In this new #metoo era, performance is a home to go to, a place to take the shame, rage and fear and stare it in the face. In this space, we can find our voice, wrestle with it and shape it into something transcendent, funny and beautiful.” Melita Rowston and Leah Donovan.


Cockroach is an anthem for our times: furious, funny and hopeful.

Nominated: Best Performance - Melbourne Fringe

Nominated: Best Sound Design - Play, Best Director - Play, Best Cabaret Performer and Best Cabaret Performance - Broadway World Awards.

Selected for Bank SA Support Act - Adelaide Fringe


“Expect to leave this show transformed. Melita Rowston's pitch perfect script is precisely what we need right now. On-stage live music from Benito Di Fonzo heightens the buzz, Leah Donovan's performance as C is beyond outstanding. Donovan is impressive in her physicality, her humour and her ability to pierce you straight through the heart... Cockroach is hands-down the best show I've seen this Fringe. It's hilarious. It's whip smart. It's bloody important.”

Great Scott Media, Adelaide

"Cockroach is brilliantly conceived and delivered to touch every nerve-end, provoke every emotion and prod every brain cell in its crucial quest for justice. Having drawn us into the cesspit of vile abuse and revenge, with riveting skills and well-wrought humour, and aligned us to the thoroughly deserved acts of vengeance, Cockroach the cautionary tale brings us back to light, enlightenment and lightness with empowering recovery and resolution that reclaims her right – the right of all survivors of rape – to a rich and fulfilling life without fear. Equilibrium is achieved."

Theatreview, New Zealand


“Donovan’s performance is intoxicating. She manages to be frightening without ever being alienating. She commands the room, controlling the variance in tone with a light touch and crafted control. She puts her voice and body all on the line for the sake of maximum impact; Rowston’s words are in the perfect hands.”

Adelaide Theatre Guide


“As Rowston says, 'Anger is an important emotion. It signals that something is wrong. It's a vehicle for change.' Her Cockroach is cathartic theatre and there's a sense of release, revelation and redemption. She is a very skilful writer and Leah Donovan is a fabulously talented actor. This is a cautionary tale that needs to be seen.”

Hi Fi Way, Adelaide

“A brilliant, clever concept executed with a wonderfully biting script. Cockroach is a brilliantly conceived show truly worth seeing, and Donovan’s wrathful roach will stay in my mind for a long time.”

Collage Adelaide 

“Leah Donovan performs the material as if she has summoned every ounce of darkness within to become the vengeful cockroach of the title. While it's often uncomfortable, Cockroach offers an honest and brutal perspective on gendered violence that will stay with you for days. An important and vital show in the midst of the #MeToo movement.”

The Upside News, Adelaide 


“The level of detail in Melita Rowston’s writing is incredibly confronting, but its humour and quick wit make for a watchable show, albeit full of cringe and discomfort... Disfigured, alien-like and contorted, Leah Donovan is thrilling as she retells tales of sexual assault with new happy endings for a post #MeToo age.”

Fest Mag, Adelaide 

“Part cabaret, part cautionary tale, Cockroach is a very funny story of an avenging insect, sick of the violence and injustices perpetuated on women by a host of men who should really know better… She sings, she screeches, she stomps her feet and is the antithesis of the well-behaved ‘good girl’ yet audiences love her just as she is.” The Buzz from Sydney

“Captivating, creative and current...Through music, spoken word poem, dance and generally absurd expression the feelings and desires of many women are captured fabulously and without apology… Powerful, creative and unapologetic, this is a fabulous feminist piece of work.” 

Broadway World, Sydney

"In a writhing, free-versatile, deep theatre, punk immersion, you may find yourself laughing, but will almost certainly feel yourself unsettled, confronted, challenged and chastened. The very organs of history, myth and literature are brought into question... Rowston’s voice, though, is the principal driver: manic and justly furious, she puts her point across in no uncertain terms; thus, this is a tract uncompromising and bursting with integrity. Even as you squirm and wrestle with your very maleness (if that be your assignation), you’ll hunger for more." 

Syke on Stage

“The show weaves its upfrontpunkrock with quieter moments of memory and introspection, moments that has me near tears.. This is one hell of a performance from Leah Donovan. Athletic, balletic, ballistic, funny, crude, layered and human, it’s a work of strength and vital energy. This is not an easy task, as a performance. All that hard work very definitely pays off.”

Steve Smart Poetry

"A furiously smart feminist revenge fantasy tale." 

Sometimes Melbourne

“Cockroach is a show that many have been crying out for. It has a message to deliver to its audiences and will scream it loud and unashamed. Leah Donovan’s performance is thrilling to watch... With sublime physicality she embodies all the raw rage and anger of the Cockroach. Leah truly is fearless. Melita Rowston’s writing is spine tinglingly brilliant. Each moment and sentence is carefully structured and woven into a whip smart script. The metaphor at the centre of the production is a stroke of genius, for as the cockroach is the lowest of the low; there is still a will and drive to survive. ” 

Arts Review

"A unique, thought-provoking fantasy script juxtaposed with startling facts and reality... Leah was the master of silences and monologue. She strutted the stage with haunting domination. She told her story, she commanded the audience's attention and her story was very important. This is the heavy topic and not for everyone…. although maybe it should be."

Weekend Notes



Writer/Director: Melita Rowston 

Performer: Leah Donovan

Live music: Benito Di Fonzo 

Lighting: Richard Whitehouse

New Zealand Fringe, 2020

BATS Theatre: Heyday Dome

1 Kent Terrace, Wellington

1-5 March, 2020

Adelaide Fringe, 2019

Studio: The Bakehouse Theatre

255 Angas Street, Adelaide

4-9 March, 2019

Sydney Fringe, 2018

Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre

Cnr Cleveland St and City Rd, Chippendale

6-8 September, 2018 

Melbourne Fringe, 2018

Fringe Hub: Arts House - Warehouse

521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne

22-29 September, 2018

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2SER-FM Review - Stages 2SER (Trisha Starrs)
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Cockroach NZ Radio Active Wellington Interview March 3rd 2020 -
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