Fourteen Review @ Brisbane Festival 2022

Luisa is a travel, food and entertainment writer who will try just about anything. With a deep love of culture, she can be found either at the airport, at QPAC, or anywhere serving a frosty chilli margarita.

'Fourteen' from shake & stir theatre co is – very sadly – not treading new ground as a gay-coming-of-age-in-a-small-town, but it tells the story exceedingly well. With a Queensland flavour, and 1990s nostalgia, this play is not to be missed.

To say being gay in 1990s Yeppoon sucks for 14-year-old Shannon Molloy is a massive understatement. 'Fourteen' is an autobiographical work set in the small Queensland town, where the young Molloy is undergoing a sexual awakening. His peers are too, and previous friends turn on Shannon for being identifiably gay. Even his teachers bully him, saying he brings on the bullying by walking the way he does.

These interactions between teachers, classmates and strangers are uncomfortably familiar to anyone who grew up in the era, but the discomfort and shock is alleviated by 'Fourteen'’s humour. Lines such as “She smelled sickly sweet, like Passion Pop mixed with Impulse” will rocket the Gen X audience straight back to grade nine. Drunken teen party scenes will bring back hazy memories too. The '90s soundtrack is terrific.

Fourteen BrisFest 2022 1
Image © David Fell

The cast is wonderful with two standouts. Mitchell Bourke is all easy charm as Tom, but with subtle changes, he morphs into a whole host of characters to tell the story. All the actors do, but with Bourke the changes depend less on costume, and more on smaller changes to expression and posture. Conor Leach too as Shannon very much embodies the character – he seems to be Shannon.

This important story is told with warmth, wit, and charm. Its gut punches and shame for audience members who in the past would have witnessed this cruel behaviour at school and never stood up is relieved with jokes and nostalgia. It’s an important story, that will also keep you entertained.

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