REVIEW: Drew Downing is REBEL

Gay icons, Hollywood heroes and rock-star charm

By Myron My

Drew Downing returns to The Butterfly Club as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival with his new cabaret show Rebel. Our eponymous rock star recounts his life growing up homosexual in the 60s, the era of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’.

Despite being the preview performance, Downing was very relaxed, confident and charming on stage. His quips and interaction with the audience, although not a common occurrence, are used effectively in creating an intimate environment for him to share his stories. He remains committed to his character and is highly convincing as Rebel.


I was also very impressed by Downing’s voice and the original songs he performed. Supported by his three-man band (and at one point, jumping on a piano himself), his songs show an intimacy and poignant emotional level that is not often seen or heard. It is evident a lot of time went into perfecting the lyrics, especially with the ballads. Downing does not overplay this emotion but rather, remains very true to it.

However, I feel the narrative in Rebel gets lost at times, with one too many sub-plots preventing us really getting into the nuts and bolts of the story. The show sells itself as an expose of the character’s love affairs with classic screen stars Rock Hudson and James Dean, yet he does little more than gossip about his one-night stands and then moves on to other stories, giving the impression that interactions with these momentous gay icons have had no actual effect on him.

That said, the subsequent contrast of his stories revolving around his relationship with his closeted Uncle Randy and family back home work well in subtly exploring the ignorance and intolerance of that era when it came to homosexuality.

Downing’s acting, stage presence and most importantly, rock-star voice make Rebel well worth seeing, and I will be keen to see what he comes up with next.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 256 Collins St (entry via Carson Place), CBD

Season: Until 26 January 9:00pm, Sun 8:00pm.

Tickets: $28 Full | $25 Conc