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Gold Coast review: Still Standing: A Classic Australian Rock Story with Attitude

By Douglas Kennedy.

Still Standing

By Margery and Michael Forde

Directed by Cilla Scott

Gold Coast Little Theatre

Sound and Lighting Design Lawrie Esmond

Photography TTL Photography

Contains drug references and coarse language. Booking Phone: 07 55322096. Season ends September 30.

Nev (Dean Bradley) and Brenda (Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga)

In the Gold Coast Little Theatre’s newest main house production, Still Standing, the grungy in-your-face world of 1980s pub rock comes vividly to life.

This mad, bad, and sometimes dangerous to know era is channeled through the thoughts, minds, and memories of three ageing rock veterans.

The time is 15 years later, and one-time members of a band known as Gaffer, Nev (Dean Bradley), Brenda (Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga) and Skeeter (George Pulley) are catching up for a showtime reunion.

Gaffer was on the threshold of a rock ‘n’ roll dream when they went their separate ways, but maybe what’s going to unfold tonight could be a nightmare.

The venue - once known as Reverb in Brisbane’s Valley musical precinct – has been refurbished by the now dodgy entrepreneur Skeeter and he wants his old mates back to kick-start the new enterprise.

The new look dive, now called the Speaker, looks fit for purpose as the audience pours into the GCLT auditorium and catches sight of guitars, drums and a keyboard waiting forlornly for the man – and one woman - power to deliver some driving rock.

Soon the band, Michelle Watkins (keys/vocals), Lawrie Esmond (guitar/keys), Jem Miles (drums), Will David (lead guitar) and RodrigoMachado (bass guitar) file onto the stage.

Later actors Dean Bradley and Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga join the line-up on guitar and vocals respectively, while Pulley’s Skeeter runs around addicted to his mobile phone and irritating the musicians.

The musical night kicks off with Matt Taylor’s I Remember When I Was Young and continues with 11 more rock classics from the 1980s.

Among the original artists honoured in the show are the Divinyls, INXS, Cold Chrisel, the Pretenders and Hunters and Collectors among others.

Still Standing’s first half focuses on the band’s warm-up and tech run as their harrowing back story unfolds.

While the second half sees some home truths coming home to roost as we learn what drove them apart, destroyed their relationships, and possibly their future hopes and dreams.

Margery and Michael Forde’s well-crafted narrative fits neatly into the fabric of the rehearsal and concert and even background characters, not seen on stage, come vividly to life.

The two Fordes – a married playwriting couple who had several theatrical hits around the turn of the century – first brought Still Standing to Brisbane’s La Boite stage in 2002.

The story, which is basically a rock ‘n’ roll tragic comedy straight from the archives of musical history, strips away the veneer of the seemingly good times, which hides the true cost of fleeting fame and evaporating fortunes.

Over the night, we learn the true plight of the good natured Nev, the ambitious Brenda and the conniving Skeeter.

And whatever happened to the bands near musical genius, but drug affected, Davo, who slipped between the cracks and maybe melted into oblivion, and local gangster Carny who wanted Brenda?

The three principal actors do a sterling job, under the direction of Cilla Scott, while the band and the set are the driving force of the production.

George Pulley is both the arch clown and fallen hero of the event, while Rebecca Kenny-Sumiga and Dean Bradley give us the honesty which unmasks a fragile rock ‘n’ roll cover-up.

Still Standing is a wake-up call for anyone who ever dreamed of being a rock star or maybe even strutting the world stage.

For the rest of us it’s a wonderful retro show with all the drive, energy, and luster of GCLT’s previous rock show hit Green Day’s American Idiot.

If the GCLT’s box office still has a till it should be rocking its hardest this month.

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