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June 20, 2024

New show hits on why we need music festivals

CityMag sat down with the writer/director of a new South Australian play to chat about the transformative power of music festivals and what makes first gigs memorable.

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  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Pictures: Morgan Sette
  • Main picture: Hits cast with writer/director Rebecca Meston (back row, centre-left, wearing red)

​​Rebecca Meston says she will never forget hearing Helen Razer broadcasting on Triple J through her teeny radio in her suburban Adelaide bedroom.​​


The Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Festival Drive, Adelaide 5000
7pm July 3 – 6
2pm July 6


“I’d never heard a woman speak like that, talk about music like this,” Rebecca says.

Helen and the Triple J of the 90s was Rebecca’s first introduction to alternative music and a different perspective than what you’d hear in the mainstream. 

“It was just mind-blowing and I wouldn’t have known about any of this stuff, like there was no internet, there weren’t so many channels, ” Rebecca says.

“There was this feeling growing up for me anyway, and for a lot of my friends, that there was only one voice, it was a white, male, kind of Boomer voice,” she says. 

Indie radio stations and music festivals were the place to stumble across the alternative, an experience Rebecca captures in her musical, Hits

Hits follows 15-year-old Rhiannon as she ditches a diet of dad rock and a singular worldview for a punk-inspired awakening after meeting Suzie, who works at the local record store and is on the lineup for 1993’s Big Day Out festival. 

The character of Suzie works at a record store that Rebecca says is like the old Big Star on Rundle Street, which she’d frequent back in the day. Now, the last remaining Big Star record store is located on Magill Road, Norwood. This picture: Helen Karakulak

The show opens towards the end of 1992, when Charles and Diana’s separation was the top story, teens devoured Dolly magazine for advice and Nirvana had just headlined the inaugural Big Day Out in Sydney. 

“It is set in 1992 because I really wanted to set the world in pre-internet Australia because pre-internet Australia was a very different landscape to how it is now,” Rebecca says. 

“Music festivals like the Big Day Out were the site of a massive explosion of music, ideas, fashion, culture and 1993/1992 was the day and age where it was a really ripe time… it was really bringing that idea that something is shifting culturally,” Rebecca says. 

“INXS and that kind of style was on the outs and Nirvana and Hole were coming up through the ranks.” 

The 1993 Big Day Out poster

Rebecca says there’s a scene in Hits where Suzie tries to explain to Rhiannon that the Big Day Out has multiple acts on different stages. 

“Just that idea was, in the early 90s, that was new,” Rebecca says. 

“Sometimes Australian pubs and city pubs would have multiple acts but not at that scale and magnitude.”

Rebecca says discovering new artists and finding a community at music festivals is still a big part of the experience, though it looks different now as the landscape has changed. 

“Whether that’s Taylor Swift or you’re into some kind of really hardcore metal and you go and find your people at that gig, you may never see them again after that weekend but for that moment, that was really important and that’s just the same as it was in the 90s,” she says. 

Hits musical

Ren Williams is an actor, trained in film and theatre at Flinders Drama Centre. She plays protagonist Rhiannon in Hits.

For 25-year-old actor Ren Williams, who plays Rhiannon, it was a Harry Styles concert that gave her the combination of anticipation and adrenaline that live music sparks. 

“It’s the same idea, it’s just in a different time,” Rebecca says. 

“There’s just nothing like seeing someone you adore play live.”

The cast is made up of four actors, with three playing multiple roles, and a 13-member mosh-pit chorus made up of Flinders University first-year drama students.

Hits musical

Crowd surfing rehearsals

In the show, you’ll hear Sonic Youth among the covers, who headlined the 1993 Big Day Out. 

The show also features an original track from the fictional band Razor Lizard that Suzie plays in. 

“[Suzie] writes all the songs, sings everything, creates all the merch and she has a song called ‘Horizon; She’ll be all right’ and my amazingly extraordinary sound designer Jason Sweeney has made that song and that will be performed as an original in the show,” Rebecca says. 

While she is a frequent festival-goer, Rebecca wasn’t at the 1993 Big Day Out herself. She interviewed those who were, including official photographer Sophie Howarth, to set the scene at the centre of Hits.

The Big Day Out of 1993 was held at Adelaide Uni, and in the show, Suzie gives Rhiannon an all-access pass so she can get an insight into the industry from all sides of the stage. 

Rebecca says the show isn’t autobiographical, but it does capture a universal experience of connecting with music. 

“Music can really come to you at really difficult periods in your life, whether that’s 15 or 42, or whatever the age you are, and be the thing that gets you through,” she says.

“[Hits] is a period piece, recent history, but it’s not like Generation X are the only people that are allowed in here, I really don’t care for that.”

While mindful of not overplaying the nostalgia element, the show is a coming-of-age tale about discovering your music taste and attending your first gig. 

“The age of 14/15 feels like the most tricky period you go through as a teenager, it’s really awkward,” Rebecca says.

“You can often feel very misunderstood, very unheard or unseen but then if you find the music that you love, then it’s like you never let it go.

“The music that I fell in love with at fifteen is like they’re like my best friends, I go to them when I need them the most.

“I wanted to sort of really capture that through this character and this time as well.” 

Hits is presented by Laughter through the Tears Productions, supported by Brink Productions, and is playing at the Space Theatre from July 1-3 with tickets available via the Adelaide Festival Centre website

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