Monday, April 11, 2022

DAGS by Debra Oswald. Presented by Canberra Youth Theatre.


Jade Breen as Gillian in "DAGS"

Directed by Luke Rogers – Set and Costumes designed by Aislinn King

Lighting design by Antony Hateley.

Courtyard Studio – Canberra Theatre Centre – 8th – 13th April 2022.

Performance on 9th April reviewed by Bill Stephens.

It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate production to celebrate Canberra Youth Theatre’s 50th year than this exuberant play actually written for Canberra Youth Theatre by Debra Oswald in 1984.

Director Rogers has wisely retained the 1980’s as the setting for his revival of the play, giving designer Aislinn King the perfect excuse for some riotously coloured costumes and a colourful setting of geometric foam rubber shapes, a nod to the patterns of the 80’s, and perfect for constant re-arrangement by the cast to suit whatever setting each situation required.

Lily Welling (Wendy) - Jade Breen (Gillian) - and ensemble in "Dags"

Central to the success of the play, and rarely off-stage during the entire 80 minutes of its  running time, is the delightful performance of  Jade Breen who plays Gillian, a young woman constantly and hilariously  in crisis about her acne, body shape, relationships, friends, crushes and of course, sex.

Despite her youth, Breen is an accomplished actress, confident, resourceful, and equipped with the variety of skills necessary to carry the responsibility of such large role.  Gillian is her best role to date, and she is outstanding in it, having learnt how to involve her audience in her story and how to relate generously with her fellow actors who play a variety of characters necessary to her story.

Among these roles Jessi Gooding plays Bronwyn, Gillian’s older sister, who together with her boyfriend Biggles (Elliot Cleaves) is full of ideas as to how to solve Gillian’s adolescent problems. Not always successfully however.  

One attempt involves a date for Gillian with Biggles’ brother, Derek, charmingly portrayed by William Best, which after a disastrous start ends with the pair discovering a shared commonality.

Gillian’s own attempts are less fruitful particularly when she tries to befriend another school outsider, Monica (Breanna Kelly) by wooing her with a shared ice-cream bucket only to realise that Monica is more interested in the ice-cream than friendship. 

Breanna Kelly (Monica) and Jade Breen (Gillian) in "Dags".

When her attempts to attract rock legend, Tony (Elliot Cleaves in another cameo role which he plays for maximum laughs) come to nothing, Gillian develops a crush on the school jock Adam (Matthew Hogan) who confides in Gillian about his own relationship problems with the beautiful but specious Wendy (Lily Welling).  When Adam drops Wendy and turns his attentions to Gillian, she recognises his fickleness and rejects him.

Debra Oswald’s delightfully observed depiction of adolescent angst is brought to life by Rogers and his cast in a light-hearted series of sequences, punctuated by well-staged ensemble scenes broadly and enthusiastically performed by Hannah Cornelia, Sophie Blackburn, Persephone Bates D’Arbela, Josh James, Alexi Clark Mitchell, Abigail Marceau, Juniper Potter and Disa Swifte.

The result is a thoroughly entertaining production which appropriately celebrates the achievements of Canberra Youth Theatre’s 50 years of existence.  

                               Photos provided by Canberra Youth Theatre. 

        This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.

Erratum: In attempting to precis the storyline  for this review I have received advice from an  impeccable source that I have misrepresented some of the details and that:-

-  Gillian does not attempt to attract Tony, Wendy does.

- Adam is having relationship problems with Karen (played by Sophie Blackburn) not Wendy.

- Adam drops Karen not Wendy. 

I apologise for any embarrassment my errors may have caused, and trust they will not have affected your enjoyment of this delightful production.