Content warnings for Reagan Kelly include suicide, mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse, strobe lighting, theatrical haze and theatrical flame.
The titular character of Reagan is a former-school captain turned arts-degree dropout, who self-medicates through partying. Each secondary character is developed enough to be worthy of Reagan’s main-character status,including Hugh, her flamboyant yet self-deprecating gay friend, Ollie, Reagan’s closeted brother, Bianca, Ollie’s girlfriend, and Guy, Reagan’s love interest who makes food reviews on Youtube, as well as Reagan’s parents, Ewan and Christy.
Reagan Kelly is an exceptional play which is darkly funny and oddly cathartic. Issues central to the script regard sexuality and mental health, but Reagan Kelly dives deep into the nuclear family dynamic occurring in the Kelly household, as well as allowing each character enough stage time and depth of writing to feel real. And yet, despite all the drama and darkness, the audience is still able to leave the theatre with a sense of hope.
Reagan Kelly is set in 2013, when vlogging and days in the life content styles were still in their heyday. While the subjects explored in the play are timeless, this grounding in place and time allows for a more thorough exploration of our recent past, and a window into how the world has changed since. Lewis Treston’s writing shines through brilliantly; especially considering the NUTS production used an edited script created in conversation with the original playwright.
Each character is messy and complicated, in a way that feels authentic whilst also occasionally being played for laughs. Though some characters appear to be more severe in their complications, others appear put-together towards the beginning of the play but slowly unravel. Reagan Kelly is a play in which all characters, regardless of gender or sexuality are portrayed as being kind of awful, yet strangely sympathetic in parts – especially for a university audience. Something of note that I gleaned from chatting with the cast is that the women in Reagan Kelly are “allowed to be feral”; making this play an extension of the feminine rage genre, that includes characters who are delightfully flawed.
The multimedia aspect of the show is brilliantly done – cameras follow Reagan as she dances through opening club scenes, monologuing and stepping the audience through each section of her night. The Brechtian projection of the same footage across multiple TV screens onstage bring a level of self-awareness to the performance, and an aspect of metatheatre becomes apparent in a style reminiscent of Sydney director Kip Williams’ productions with Sydney Theatre Company. The issue of performance is one that is brought up many times throughout the script and writing- especially in the case of characters who are explicitly written as queer.
Overall, Reagan Kelly was an incredible play to watch- I’d just advise any future audience-goers to be wary that you might be crying one second and laughing the next.