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Gal Pals - Scarlet Rose and The Blue Room

Reviewed by Caroline Stafford


In the lifetime of a gay person, there will never be anything that compares to the first time you experience community as a queer person, and Gal Pals captures that period perfectly. The pastel slumber party, inconveniently set at a conversion camp in rural Western Australia, is a drama-filled journey of teen angst, emotion, and frustration as five young people come together with a variety of different stories and needs. Set against current real-world issues, Gal Pals is a space where the cast explores what it is to be a young, queer woman, against the sparse backdrop of three pink bunkbeds and impressive papier-mâché gumtree.

Each girl is at the camp for different reasons - some voluntary and some against their will. Their backstories explore the different lives queer teenagers live, and the different struggles they endure. The danger with a play that has so many different characters with unique and emotive storylines is that it can become cliched and overdone, which playwright Sam Nerida navigates skillfully. Additionally, it would be remiss not to mention the actors that give the show its authenticity and grittiness. From the cool, queer, and confident Sloane on her fourth visit to the camp (played by Crystal Nguyen) to the clearly conflicted Christian Kat (Rhiannon Bryan) who is there voluntarily, each of the five actors brings depth and realism to each of their characters while remaining unique. The variety of characters is also a boon to Gal Pals’ appeal as it allows the audience to find themselves in each persona: whether you were confident like the aforementioned Sloane, in denial like Kat, a free spirit like Cassie (Hayley Perrin), a tortured poet like Zara (Sophie Quin) or the quick to anger Hez (Ionia Venoutsos). Special mention must go to Venoutsos who treads carefully between the rage so many young people default to in an effort to mask the pain beneath.

The set design is minimal, but the use of lighting to create different spaces is effective, creating intimate scenes that would run the risk of getting lost otherwise. Additionally, changes in time are cleverly marked through small shifts in props in the background - denoting shifts in the psychology of the girls too. It would be remiss not to note the use of soundscape in influencing the mood of each scene. Some elements are more overt, like the clips of news bulletins or religious hymns, or more subtle, like the barking of dogs to symbolise the ever-present governing bodies of the conversion camp. While at times the unexpected audio was jarring, it was a good kind of jarring - visceral reminders of the discrimination that queer people still face.

As a queer person, Gal Pals spoke to many parts of my youth - the good and the bad. It is full of in-jokes and rallies against injustice, but at its core, it is a sensitive song about the importance of community and the profound impact of found families, no matter at what stage in life. With an exceptional cast and uniquely sensitive writing, it is truly a must-see experience.

Hayley Perrin (Cassie), Ionia Venoutsos (Hez), Sophie Quin (Zara) and Crystal Nguyen (Sloane). Image credit: Shae Khreish

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company.


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