Theatre Review: Puberty Blues

Theatre Review: Puberty Blues

Two teenage girls try to fit into the popular surfie crowd in 1970s Australia and, in doing so, discover the pitfalls of growing up.

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Presented by Deadset Theatre Company, supported by Verendus Theatrical
Reviewed 25 October 2017

The iconic Australian novel, Puberty Blues, written by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette, makes it back to the stage with the premiere of a new Australian production and as the debut outing for the new Deadset youth theatre company.

It depicts the surfie life of Sydney teens in the 1970s. Controversial at the time for it’s depiction of teenage sex, drugs and alcohol abuse, the story is, nonetheless, somewhat autobiographical. The play is adapted by Zoe Muller, who also stars as the central character and co-directs with Jean Collins.

It’s fitting that the novel was written and published while the authors were still teenagers themselves, because Muller began writing her stage adaptation at the age of 15. Two years later, with the approval of the authors’ agent, her vision comes to fruition.

The script is excellent. The dialogue is natural and funny, and it captures the slang and and the mindset of the era beautifully. Deadset, it does. Where the script struggles is in the number of short scenes which puts a lot of unnecessary blackouts into this 70 minute show. A bit more creativity with the direction could have removed most of those blackouts and kept the action flowing. That’s not to say the blackouts are long. They’re not. There’s just too many of them. Between the darkness however, is some well-realised staging. Blocking is never an issue and the movement flows, showing great potential for both 17-year-old directors who just need a little more experience under their belt.

The cast vary from good to great, most notably Matilda Butler and writer/director Zoe Muller as the central storytellers, Sue and Debbie, respectively. There’s some fine emotional work on display, especially from Butler. Brad McCarthy is also ideally cast in the role of Debbie’s love interest, Gary. This trio of stars is ably supported by Henry Cooper as self-centred Danny, Kate Owen as Cheryl, Jean Collins as Vicky, and the rest of the 14-member ensemble who are too numerous to name.

Presented in one act, Puberty Blues is a classic Australian story which has been done proud. Having read the book, seen the movie and loved the TV series, it’s a tale that is far from finished being told. This is a fresh new adaptation that should set up Deadset Theatre Company for many more successes in the future.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Venue: Holden Street Theatres, 34 Holden Street, Hindmarsh
Season: 25 – 28 October 2017
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: $$20 Adults, $15 Student/Concession
Bookings: www.holdenstreettheatres.com

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