I was 15 when Heathers the movie came out in ‘89 and blew us all away. It was my Mean Girls, my Easy A. It was gritty, dark and dirty, and lots of fun. Since then there have been 250 school shootings in the USA.

I’m not saying Heathers is responsible. My point is more that the world has changed, things got serious – ‘shit got real’ – we’re woke now and we can’t laugh like we used to at black humour. So it’s refreshing to dive back into the nostalgia of youthful innocence and take the proverbial out of teen angst.

Theatre HB has mounted an excellent musical rendition of Heathers – on in Hastings until 22 June – with a standout cast. Some are familiar in am-dram circles. There are newbies on stage too with the kind of x-factor that makes you want to remember their names so you can say you saw them at the start of their careers.

Jasmine MacDonald, as Heather Chandler, is one such rising star. She has a stand-out voice, comic timing, and stage-presence that screams Main Character Vibes. Her willowy limbs mean every movement must be precise to ensure she’s adding not subtracting to the action around her. She has great command of the stage and of herself and shows she knows how to use her talent.

Hayley Munro, a versatile and experienced performer and a gem of the HB arts scene, holds the whole piece together. Her stamina is admirable and her ability to bounce off a number of offerings at once impressive.

Ms Fleming, brought to life by the big voice and presence of Viv Bull, is the teacher we all had in the ‘80s, decked out in beads and batik and smelling of smudge sticks. Bull drives the momentum during the challenging second half. She gives it all she’s got and it’s her energy that slingshots us towards the denouement. Her rapport with the audience is particularly well-timed and joyful.

Sam Draper is captivating as the heart throb loner, although he’s such a big personality he, out of everyone, could afford to pull it back a bit. 

There are masterful moments of stagecraft such as MacDonald and Munro’s power play, a clever slow-mo fist fight featuring jocks (Josh Folkers and Ben Sutherland), and a great death scene (or three). Director James McCaffrey has certainly given his actors plenty of business and found ways to span the gap between those with experience and those without. There are no weak links or energy vacuums in this piece. Lifting downstage right, however – where the choicest pieces of action happen – onto a riser would have given more of the audience a view of crucial turning points. 

It is the choreography that elevates this piece to something constrained only by the dimensions of the stage. This cast deserves a thrust! Working with a big ensemble in a tiny room Corinne Bowey has shown once again what an expert she is, taking a mixed bag of dancing talent and turning them into a troop. ‘Big Fun’ and ‘Shine a Light’ are particularly dynamic.

The cast as a whole could afford to push Heathers further from pastiche towards parody. To illustrate how far we’ve come. And in fact there’d be no harm in embracing the whole piece as a piss-take on the tropes of the quintessential American teen. 

It’s not easy to fully embrace some of the themes of Heathers, we can’t put away our PC sensibilities fully. But any cringe felt about toxic masculinity is drowned out by a knock-out performance of ‘My Dead Gay Son’ with its hilarious dance moves. 

Overall, Heathers is a great night out. Take an old school friend, take a teenager, take your crush and have a pash in the back row like you did in ‘89.

Heathers The Musical – Theatre HB, Hastings, 6-22 June 2024


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