April’s Fool – Empire Theatres (ArTour 2012)

April's Fool
April's Fool

April’s Fool is sweet agony. David Burton did justice to this story with his decision to write the script with ‘verbatim’ dialogue gathered from family, community and the diary kept by Kristjan Terauds’ father during the ordeal of Kristjan’s death. These words, little stitches of life, are masterfully woven by Burton into a tapestry timeline of the last days of Kristjan, a young Toowoomba man who died just before his nineteenth birthday due to complications from prolonged drug use. The impact on the audience of those actual words of grief, guilt and confusion is profound as there is nothing falsely dramatic or conjured about the work. Kristjan’s mother, father, sister and brother haunt the stage and although never seen, Kristjan’s presence is easily sensed behind a simple white curtain as his family and community struggle with the inevitability of letting him go. The well-worn subject of teenagers and drugs becomes a riveting and intimate journey into the Terauds’ loss in April 2009 and is currently touring south east Queensland with ArTour 2012.

The stage is bare simplicity, there is nothing cutting edge here, fancy effects are not needed. If I closed my eyes, the actors’ voices would give me the very same experience of the Terauds’ devastation although the subtle use of projection adds an eerie reminiscence to the spectacle. The story begins, ‘A Current Affair’ style with each character presenting to the stage to give their account of the events leading up to the event. A young man attends a music festival with friends; they drink, take drugs and don’t bathe for several days. A young man behaves in a way that is, and always has been the expected behaviour of teenagers embarking on life’s highway – until it all goes wrong, then it’s tragic and blame-worthy behaviour and we almost have a murder mystery on our hands, each character suspecting them selves of the crime.

The play continues with a documentary feel, owing to the use of direct audience address. Characters retell important moments, reflecting with the detached and factual air of an interviewee. As Krisjtan’s final days unfold however, we fall into the flesh of the story and are dragged back in time with them. The family’s soul is suddenly laid bare and we watch them descend into denial, guilt and despair over the final choice this boy has made for himself.

Barbara Lowing as Kristjan’s mother
Barbara Lowing as Kristjan’s mother

Barbara Lowing is absolutely stunning as Kristjan’s mother. The grief of a mother is unmistakeable; that stoic, silent strength that endures until the end when it explodes into a wailing wreck that nobody can redeem. She will forever blame herself for her son’s death because mothers own all blame – it is the law. It is rare that I am brought to tears by a play and Lowing took me to the verge during her stellar performance, but it was after the show, in the retelling of the poignant last moments she spends with her son that I unwillingly spilled.

Sam Clark as Kristjan’s brother was surprising with some moments of edgy and believable emotion. From Allen Laverty, tender, lingering truths of a father not quite sure where to turn or how to feel. Jessica Harm and Belinda Raisin round out this dynamic cast of five, who between them play, not only the family, but friends, community and medical staff attending the scene at the hospital.

April’s Fool is not just a story of the perils of the youth drug culture; it’s a chance to re-visit the turmoil of mortality, and the senselessness of a wasted life. The Terauds don’t preach or judge but rather share and allow you to reflect. I reflected as I left the JWC and strolled back to my car, through the bevy of Friday night fools strung out on their potion of choice and to echoing sentiments of generations past, I wondered had it really changed all that much?

April’s Fool debuted to acclaim in 2010 and is currently touring as part of the 2012 ArTour program. After two shows in Brisbane, the production will head to Logan, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast and finally to Beaudesert. For more information on the April’s Fool itinerary, visit www.artour.com.au

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