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The Outsiders: Deadset Theatre Company - Review

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by Nathaniel Mason (subscribe)
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Engaging performances navigating drama and emotion of teens
Deadset Theatre Company have tackled the challenge of presenting the polarising story of The Outsiders with success, with engaging performances navigating the drama, violence and emotion of teenage life and rival gangs with depth and balance of light and shade.

Based on the book by SE Hinton, this iconic coming of age story follows the lives of a teen gang in the 1960's known as 'Greasers' who are perpetually at odds with the Socs, a rival group. When a Soc member is murdered, Greasers Ponyboy and Johnny are forced into hiding. Soon the boys, along with Dallas and the other Greasers, must contend with the consequences of their violent lives.

The characters in the story navigate their way through a host of emotions that course through teenage veins. Alex Withrow is outstanding as Ponyboy, giving narration and a strong performance that glues the story together, battling in a struggle for place and identity amongst peer pressure and expression of self. Johnny, played by Dylan Miller, accompanies Withrow with a more subtle portrayal of youth, struggling with abuse and a troubled past. Bothers Darry and Sodapop played by Jai Pearce and James Fazzalari respectively lend different takes on growing up fast and responsibility as the older brothers, and fellow gang members Henry Solomon and Jackson Barnard round out the 'Greasers' crew. Solomon carries strength as the hardened and self-professing wiser (a la ex-con) of the group 'Dallas', while Barnard's skittish 'Two-Bit' character breaks the fourth wall on occasions with some timely comic relief within a generally sombre story.

Deadset Theatre Company The Outsiders
The Outsiders - Alex Withrow and Jai Pearce - Photo, Paul Butler

Zoe Taylor matches the intensity of the boys in the 'Greasers' crews as well as showing her genuine softer side as Cherry, one of the girls of the Soc's crew with Veronika Wlodarczyk. Matilda Butler carries presence in multiple roles as girlfriend Sandy, and elements of black comedy in her portrayal of the incautious, gum-chewing hospital nurse. Rival 'Socs' gang antagonist Bob, played by Albert Ngo gives the audience a good amount of reason to dislike the character, with Charlie Butler's evolving character reflects the growth and maturity that gang members find along both sides of the rivalry.

The direction, by Zoe Muller and Matilda Butler, is well executed by the talented young adult cast, with stark contrasts of quiet emotion and violent aggression. The endearing moments and monologues lean in to play the silence of the intimate Bakehouse Theatre while the violent scenes bring a ferocity that fills the room with deafening conviction. You can often gauge the quality of a performance by the sounds of the audience, or in this case the silence. The occasional scratch of my pen-on-program felt like an intrusion to what was an otherwise totally engaged, absolutely silent and completely attentive audience. It's a credit to the performers to hold a sold-out opening night audience to attention. No coughs. No-one shifting in their chairs. Just. Complete. Focus.

Deadset Theatre Company The Outsiders
The Outsiders - One of several fiery and ferocious moments - Photo, Paul Butler

In the director's notes, Zoe and Matilda make comment on their choice to modernise the production with an obscure set of mismatched furniture and bold colours against dark themes within the play. Zoe notes "The set is a metaphor for growing up, with children's play equipment and play mats representing the childlike qualities of the characters, contrasted with the graffiti and bloodstains showing the violence within their lives…We also had to create a set that was easy to transport to high schools across Adelaide for our in-school productions". In a small space, the set worked to contain scenes and lighting choices developed consistency over the course of the production with some simple, but effective use of colour and direction supporting fire and fight scenes with good effect.

A worthy notable mention in production choice is the selection and placement of music, with compositions by Dylan Fleming. Appropriately sparse in act 1, few set changes and musical inclusions aided the intensity and depth of story driven by the performers and story. Brought starkly back to reality at interval, music choices at breaks were effective and underscoring in the second act, while likely un-noticed by many, added an extra degree of depth to a poignant moment.

Deadset Theatre Company The Outsiders
The Outsiders - Dylan Miller, Jackson Barnard, Veronika Wlodarczyk and Zoe Taylor - Photo, Paul Butler

As a forum allowing young adults the opportunity to pursue challenging roles onstage, Deadset Theatre Company is on point with this production. The Outsiders carries deep and challenging themes for both performers and audience that intend not to leave you with your toe tapping out the door, rather engaging performances that appropriately provoke thought around youth, self, identity, loss, grief, fear and each of our place in the world and our peers around us.

DTC was founded by three passionate theatre enthusiasts Zoe Muller, Matilda Butler and Jean Collins who have all been performing on stage together since the age of nine. In seeking more opportunities to present shows on stage, their idea of creating a new amateur theatre company for young adults arose. DTC's aim is to produce shows with a focus on young adults, this, in turn, will give more opportunities for Adelaide's young aspiring actors to perform on stage and to showcase their talent.

The Outsiders plays at the Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas Street, Adelaide.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 - 7:30pm
Wednesday, 10 July 2019 - 7:30pm
Thursday, 11 July 2019 - 7:30pm
Friday, 12 July 2019 - 7:30pm
Saturday, 13 July 2019 - 2:00pm (matinee)
Saturday, 13 July 2019 - 7:30pm

Adults $22, Students and concession $18, Groups 10 adults $20,
Approx. Running Time: 120 Minutes including an interval.
Suitable for ages: 12
Bookings available via the Bakehouse Theatre website or Trybooking

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Why? Engaging performances navigating the drama, violence and emotion of teenage life
When: 9-13 July 2019
Where: Bakehouse Theatre, 255 Angas St Adelaide
Cost: Adults $22, Child/concession $18
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