Exciting things are happening at the Australian Theatre for Young People, and the season has only just begun. 2012’s first performance – which has just ended its run at the Wharf – is the first of five plays in the season, and arguably one of the more important works it will stage.
Developed in collaboration with the Groundswell Project, an organisation which uses the arts to promote resilience and well-being through all phases of life, and The Fresh Ink Project, a vehicle for new, young, Australian playwrights, The One Sure Thing was a showcase of monologues all based on the theme of death.
Death, but all facets of death – tiny, personal deaths, like the loss of functioning senses, or the journey towards death inevitable in terminal illness, or the violent deaths, either murder or accidental – a range of deaths as diverse as the writing styles. And that was the treat of the show: with ten playwrights and ten different monologues, the structure and style of each story differed dramatically.
The standouts of the showcase came from writers who were unafraid to explore their subject with passion and abandon, paired with actors who committed themselves to the pieces with that same fearlessness. Laura Hopkinson’s Prince Willy, a tale of an eight-year-old’s single-minded desire to be an actress, was a captivating tale spun by the wonderfully childlike Lucy Coleman. Emrys Quin’s That’s What I Am Now, which was one of the freshest takes on dark comedy I’ve seen from a young writer, was deftly played by a deceptively affable Patrick Richards. It was perhaps Carolyn Burns’ Stick that was the most poignant monologue of the evening, detailing the coping mechanism of a young and defiant but ultimately conflicted young girl (Emma Campbell) facing the long road of chronic illness.
All ten writers should be commended for their works; there was a unifying sophistication to the pieces and their underlying youth and modernity. It’s refreshing to see, for example, the impact of social media in our lives woven into the pieces (most notably in Sarah Gaul’s The Last Post); these works update the story of human experience to reflect the world we live in.
Director Tanya Goldberg created a show that carried its emotions through its transitions, with clever, celebratory, and current music stings. For all that this showcase was about the certainty of death, ever-present within it was the sense of life, and perhaps more than that, love in all its forms: for family, friends, love interests, careers, for the act of being at all.
Keep an eye on The Voices Project and Fresh Ink Australia. Our newest playwrights are just waiting to be heard.