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Review | ‘Gal Pals’ is a timely play about conversion therapy

The Blue Room’s 2024 season has begun and the first play on offer could not be timelier, Gal Pals is about conversion therapy.

More specifically it’s a play about conversion therapy practices in Western Australia, and our government’s slow work at bringing in legislation to ban the practice.

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The show began its run of performances on April 9th, the following week Attorney General John Quigley and Premier Roger Cook gave an update on their progress in tackling the challenge saying they still hoped to bring in legislation before the 2025 state election – but no promises.

If there’s an award for best theatre production to be in tune with the political news of the moment, playwright Sam Nerida is surely the front runner.

Created by a team of queer women and non-binary folk, this play is focused on conversion therapy, but it’s so much more than that, is a whole series of tales about what it’s like to be a young lesbian woman, and all the crossroads of intersectionality that surround the lives of five very different characters.

The stage is very pink, pink walls, pink bunk beds, even some of the characters have flashes of pink in their outfits.

We meet a bunch of girls, sent away for a two-week camp, kept under close supervision, some time out from their lives to allow them to focus on whatever trauma is supposed to be at the heart of why they are gay, bi, pan, or queer.

There’s Cassie (Hayley Perrin) she’s from White Gum Valley and into tarot cards, crystals and focusing on your feelings.

Zara (Sophie Quin) is studious, intellectual and cautious, but she’s eager to make friends with her new roommates and hear their experiences. Sloane (Crystal Nguyen) is sassy, loud and a frequent flyer, this isn’t her first or even second trip to the camp.

Kat (Rhiannon Bryan) is the most troubled of the cohort, her faith is important to her, and she’s stuck between wanting to please her family, and recognising who she really is. Hez (Ionia Venoutsos) is the tomboy of the group, she’s butch, tough and mouthy.

Slowly the members of the group find out more and more about each other, peeling away the layers of their facades, slowly getting to the truth of who they really are.

It’s a funny play, filled with laugh out loud moments. The laughter however never takes away from the seriousness of the setting, the abhorrence of the reason why these women find themselves sharing a room.

There are moments where it feels didactic, sections of the script where the characters suddenly appear somewhat donnish. What really makes this play shine is the wonderful performances from five very talented actors.

This project began its life at the WA Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCO), which has been firing on all cylinders for the last few years and delivering many talented theatre makers into the local scene.

Gal Pals is at The Blue Room until 27th April.

Photos by Shae Khreish.

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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