Sunday, July 24, 2016


Directed by Katie Cawthorne
Presented by Canberra Youth Theatre
Ralph Wilson Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre, July 21st to 24th 2016

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

An unusual collaboration between Canberra Youth Theatre and Canberra Dance Theatre’s GOLD Troupe has resulted in a compelling, often touching, exploration of the differences in perceptions between youth and old age.

Working with a cast of ten 13 to 15 year old Canberra Youth Theatre members, and six 65 to  80 year old members of the GOLD troupe, director Katie Cawthorne has devised a visually arresting, one-hour work, to explores concepts of love, death, anxiety and family.  

The Verbatim Project cast. 

The setting is simple - a large black box studio space and sixteen bright yellow chairs. The dialogue is the thoughts of the cast, gathered utilising a variety of verbatim theatre techniques. Some dialogue is spoken live during the performance; some is played as recorded voice-overs, or edited video images recorded by the cast over the three month rehearsal period.

Throughout the piece the cast arrange and re-arrange the chairs, interact with each other, swap voices and ages, and perform tightly choreographed sequences to accompany their comments on a range of subjects related to the passage of life. Striking mood lighting, and at one stage, a gentle shower of white feathers, compliment the movement to provide a constant flow of striking images to accompany the dialogue.

During one sequence the younger cast members annunciate observations on happiness and love, recorded previously by the older cast, and vice-versa. The result is curiously revealing as well as amusing. In another, cast members swap chairs, and react to unconscious body contact. Perhaps the most powerful sequence involved one of the cast , born in 1935, sharing poignant recollections of her response to learning that her brother was fighting in the war as a bomber pilot, followed immediately by the recollections of a young cast member, born in 2001, of her father fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The spoken word sequences are delivered with admirable clarity and confidence throughout and supported by excellent technical elements to produce a memorable and thought- provoking theatrical experience.

   This review first published in CITY NEWS digital edition on 22nd July 2016.