Wild Bowie rocker’ has to be home before dark

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Queenstown teen Max Gunn isn’t old enough to drive at night but he’s comfortable simulating heroin use in a new show. 

The 17-year-old Wakatipu High student is the lead in Rock and Roll Suicide, written and directed by Queenstown showbusiness powerhouse Margaret O’Hanlon. 

The David Bowie-themed rock opera involves Gunn’s character Jo Rockstar abusing drugs.
Gunn says he and his parents are comfortable with the role. 

“It’s acting. There’s a line for how far you go and that’s within my line – and I’m not the kind of person who is going to go away and shoot up now.” 

It’s not Gunn’s first stage show lead – the aspiring musician also starred in Wakatipu High’s The Wedding Singer earlier this year. 

As Rock and Roll Suicide’s youngest cast member, Gunn says he’s enjoyed mixing with the adults in the show. 

“But it’s a bit annoying as I always have to leave rehearsal 10 minutes early so I can drive home on my restricted licence.” 

Keeping an eye on him is Queenstown performer Pearly McGrath, 26, who plays love interest Suzie Diva. 

“It’s been good having a toyboy,” McGrath jokes. 

“I’m the sidekick girlfriend who goes along for the fame ride. Expect high energy and awesome vocals.” 

O’Hanlon says she was under the impression Gunn was almost 18 when she chose him as lead. He turned 17 last Friday. 

“Had I known that I’d have taken a step back and probably thought twice about it, but he’s an extremely talented young guy,” O’Hanlon says. 

“I’ve talked to his Mum and she’s okay with some of the themes.” 

O’Hanlon says the show features minimal dialogue and tells the story via Bowie’s music – an audio visual provides text commentary to fill in the gaps. 

“I love David Bowie and have wanted to do a story with Bowie for years. 

“Rock and Roll Suicide is basically the story of all the people who immerse themselves in something in pursuit of fame and realise how vacant fame is – and so they become self-destructive.” 

O’Hanlon also stars in the 16-strong cast with Queenstowner Shaun Vining, who plays Jo Rockstar’s hero Idol. Sam Hillman makes a cameo as DJ. 

The show runs three nights at Arrowtown’s Athenaeum Hall next Wednesday, October 27, Thursday and Friday at 8pm. Tickets cost $35.