Deadset Theatre Company
Holden Street Theatres
Until 28 Oct 2017

Review by John Wells

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to see the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “The Father”, which starred the astonishingly evergreen John Bell. Looking around the auditorium at the weekday matinee, I guessed I was the youngest in the audience. By a long way. And I am no ingénue… I was close to the oldest in the crowd at Deadset Theatre Company’s opening night of “Puberty Blues”; what a pleasure it is to see a room packed with enthusiastic young theatre-watchers. There was a palpable buzz of youthful excitement.

Deadest Theatre Company is new group made up of young theatre-makers. There is a refreshing sense of authenticity: many of the actors are playing their chronological age. (No thirty-five year-olds playing teenagers here, a la Jason Priestly…)

Zoe Muller has written a stage adaptation of Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette’s classic coming-of-age novel, and, with the blessing of the authors, has presented a sparkling version of the book. The writing is generally strong and pacy, with a sound emotional pitch. Muller’s version capably exposes the tribalism, bitchiness and repugnant sexism of the time.

Good performances elevate this show beyond the variable standard of high school drama. Muller and Matilda Butler, as the protagonists Debbie and Sue, give strong and clear performances. Brad McCarthy and Henry Cooper are excellent as Debbie and Sue’s paramours Gary and Danny. This quartet reveals the doubt, angst and bravado of their characters with skill and gusto. McCarthy is particularly good, with a compelling stillness and depth; there is a disarming sweetness in his scenes with Muller.

The stagecraft can be a bit loose at times, and the ensemble scenes sometimes lack focus. But this is overall a highly appealing and accomplished production.

The next generation of Adelaide theatre is in good hands.