Reagan in real life

Reagan Kelly (Rocket Boy Ensemble and Metro Arts)

Metro Arts, Sue Benner Theatre

March 20 – 30

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20-something former school captain Reagan (Emily Carr) used to be brilliant, until ‘nothing in particular’ happened and she fell from grace to indifference and an unlikeable attitude, with a touch of kleptomania. Afraid of being bored to death in Brisbane suburbia, her life has become one of drunken nights in the Valley and one-night-stands. Dropped out of uni, unemployed and heading towards thirty, she is yet to get her shit together, so has returned to living at home.
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Reagan features in Lewis Treston’s play “Reagan Kelly” being presented at Metro Arts by Rocket Boy Ensemble. While she may be the inspiration for the show’s title, however, this is about more than just Reagan’s story. The dysfunctional family orbiting around her self-obsessed world has its own issues. Her parents Kirsty (Elise Grieg) and Ewan (Chris Kellet) are walking a fine-line between relationship crisis and breakthrough, while her secretly-engaged twin brother Oliver (Jeremiah Wray) is experiencing his own identity struggle. The result is a slice-of-life story without entire resolution, in that real-life type of way. Indeed, there is a realism especially to when the family gathers together at home, down to the ongoing interruptions of the won’t-stop-barking dog. Realistic dialogue and witty banter make it easy to get caught up in their stories and when all erupts at family dinner at a local restaurant before interval, we are hooked.

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The show features a talented ensemble of performers. Carr is excellent as the titular Reagan, rampaging into our experience with a memorable opening monologue chronicle of night out in the valley ‘getting fucked up’. She plays being pissed perfectly, in increasing slur of words and also reactions to sudden discover of what has been there all along. It’s a recognisable scene, beyond its 2015 setting, in its description of the atmosphere, interactions and assaults on the senses, reminding those of us of a certain vintage as to why we are thankful to have had our time around before there was capacity to have it shared on social media. And trying as it is to hear those in their twenties lamenting the youth of others and complaining about being old, this fits with Reagan’s character who, by her own admission, is bored and selfish (and not particularly likeable).

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Still, the optimistic, even-younger Guy (Fraser Crane) plays smitten in his every interaction with Reagan, happy with their relationship arrangement, but longing too for her to be serious and stop deluding herself. And Lisa Huynh is a steadying force as Oliver’s intuitive fiancé Bianca. In contrasting tone, Jackson McGovern is very funny as Reagan’s sassy gay best friend Hugh, even if his flamboyant performance is very one (loud) note in nature. And parents Kellett and Grieg play off each other wonderfully.

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#whoisreagankelly, the company’s social media posts have hashtagged. After seeing the show, I still don’t really know much besides the fact that being with Reagan is a crazy ride. Even so, I’d love to see her and her family again, hopefully next time in a longer show run. As new shows go, it is a standout in many ways. Projections are used with discretion, however, play an integral role in bringing the opening nightclub scene to choreographed life, and under Tim Hill’s direction, clever choices in blocking add interest. All aspects combine to make for a thoroughly entertaining show that is well-paced and very funny, but still has some quality core messages about who we are how we treat others. There is also perhaps no better place for a play inspired by Brisbane, than Metro Arts and given its near-full Wednesday night audience it seems that others agree.

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