Venue: The Rebel Theatre (Sydney NSW), Apr 8 – May 22, 2022
Writer: Hannah Reilly
Music: Megan Washington
Director: Hannah Reilly
Cast: Georgia Anderson, Carlo Boumouglbay, Jeffrey Dimi, Mariah Gonzalez, Catty Hamilton, Katelin Koprivec, Jay Laga’aia, Drew Livingston, Charlotte MacInnes, Tara Morice, Quinton Rich, Monique Sallé, Amin Taylor, Jake Tyler, Jenna Woolley, Jack Wunsch
Images by Tracey Schramm
Taylah really wants to go to the debutante ball, in her country town of Dunburn. Not being one of the cool kids however, is making things very challenging. Her cousin Maeve too, is finding herself ostracised, and has travelled from the city to seek refuge. In The Deb, we watch an unlikely pairing of personalities, each from vastly different parts of Australian life, united by their common experience of being made social outcasts.
The musical, by Hannah Reilly and Megan Washington, is a comedic juxtaposition of the bush against the metropolis, with a familiar propensity to romanticise life in the outback, as is often the convention, when telling stories about our rural counterparts. Whilst the characters in The Deb and their accompanying jokes may not be to everyone’s tastes, each of its original songs is certainly innovative and highly satisfying. Along with exuberant choreography by Sally Dashwood, all the musical sequences prove a triumphant delight, for our eyes and ears.
Emma White’s double-tier set design helps provide a visual sense of variation, facilitated through the dynamic placement of performers and their activity. Mason Browne’s costumes and Martin Kinnane’s lights, further provide for the Sydney audience, an evocation of what country life must feel like. The production can look rough around the edges, which is of course entirely commensurate with its themes and aesthetics.
Playing Taylah is Katelin Koprivec, who brings to the stage, unmistakeable precision and an admirable technical proficiency. Charlotte MacInnes is excellent in the role of Maeve, portraying with amusing accuracy, the rich and self-indulgent Zoomer, but always able to keep us on her side, with an abundance of natural charisma. Other memorable performances include Jay Laga’aia and Tara Morice, both confidently understated in their approaches, delivering great warmth to a show that wants so much to explore the goodness in people.
An overwhelming need to present country folk as affable, diminishes the darkness inherent in the many disparate narratives of The Deb. What could have been a complex examination of contemporary Australia, ends up looking quite the Hallmark greeting card, but it is doubtless that the show can be tremendously enjoyable for appreciative audiences. Some might say that things as they stand in the outback, are worse than ever, but it is true that only with optimism, can we weather all these storms.