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Heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior in all of us

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Ready for adventure? Come on a comedic romp into a world of fantasy role-playing games, with the Newcastle premiere of She Kills Monsters.

Described as “delightfully farcical” by Stage & Cinema, Hunter Drama’s latest production opens at the Civic Playhouse, from 7.30pm, on Thursday 25 August; with further shows on Friday 26 August (7.30pm) and Saturday 27 August (2pm, 7.30pm).

From acclaimed playwright Qui Nguyen, She Kills Monsters tells the story of Agnes Evans, from the average town of Athens, Ohio.

She’s an average young woman, who strives to be nothing but average, until the day her ordinary life is upended.

A fatal car crash leaves Agnes grappling with grief over the sudden loss of her parents and geeky little sister, Tilly.

The Evans siblings had little in common.

While Agnes’ life was firmly rooted in reality, mainstream pop culture and comfortable routine, Tilly’s was one of rich imagination and fantasy role-playing games. 

So, they were never particularly close.

While packing-up Tilly’s room, Agnes discovers a notebook containing a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game module, written by Tilly.

Attempting to get closer to her sister, Agnes embarks on her own adventurous quest, with the help of Dungeon Master Chuck, to play the game as her sibling designed.

She stumbles into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was Tilly’s refuge.

As Agnes delves deeper into her quest, the fantasy world and reality begin to collide and blend.

She discovers things she had never imagined and comes to realise there was a great deal about Tilly she never knew.

The journey takes her to a mysterious world of monsters and heroines, where she discovers a secret.

Tilly was queer and faced challenges with her sexuality and bullying.

She used her D&D campaign as an outlet for her struggles and the pressures of being out in school, yet “in the closet” with her family.

Hunter Drama program director James Chapman said the play dealt with themes every adolescent confronted at some point: sexuality or gender, managing family dynamics and being the odd-one-out/the underdog in teen social circles.

“While highly comedic, at times it is also tragic,” he explained.

Nyah Le, Evelyn Parkes, Jack Marshall, Byron Smith, Layla Scott Huggins and Myfanwy McMahon. Photo: Peter Stoop

“It explores topics of romantic and interpersonal relationships of relevance to young people and delves into the issue of sexuality, which is important to address, given it can be so polarising and impossibly confronting for teens who see themselves as ‘other’.

“I read a quote that said the themes of openness, tolerance and resilience are baked into the DNA of this show and I agree.

“It’s a spirited story about finding your real and metaphorical families, as well as yourself.

“But, it’s also laugh-out-loud funny and action-packed and, of course, pays homage to D&D which has enjoyed a renaissance, largely due to the immense popularity of the Stranger Things series.

“As the play toggles between reality and fantasy, elaborate battles unfold.

“It’s been brilliant to be the director for the sword fighting and general fight sequences.

“The cast has learnt new skills in the form of fight choreography and the scenes are something Newcastle audiences will not have seen.

“Working with this incredibly talented and tightknit cast to deliver a play we all love and are proud of has been immensely rewarding.”

Chapman explained She Kills Monsters was one of the top two most produced plays by high schools and colleges in the US.

“I think having so many strong, female characters is a big part of that popularity,” he said.

“Girls tend to outnumber boys considerably in drama schools and the opportunity for leads doesn’t come along as often as we’d like.

“Those in our cast have loved learning the fight choreography alongside their male counterparts.

“In this show, they certainly don’t sit back and watch the men do the fighting for them.

“The LGBTQ characters are complex, well-rounded and fulfill goals.

“Their sexuality is not the focus.

“One of the great appeals is the way it presents the non-heterosexual characters in the same light as the other characters.

“Yet, it also creates space for a serious discussion about how challenging it is for queer people to come out and how important it is to consider our own reactions.”

Tickets are available through the Civic Theatre Ticket Office at https://civictheatrenewcastle.com.au/what-s-on/all-shows/she-kills-monsters

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