Sunday, October 15, 2017

versions of us

Written by Emily Sheehan
Directed by Jess Baker and Jamie Winbank
Canberra Youth Theatre
Gorman Arts Centre 12-14 October

Review by Len Power 14 October 2017

As the lights came up on the young cast of twelve lined up before us, something made me think of the Broadway musical, ‘A Chorus Line’.  It was soon clear that ‘versions of us’ isn’t about theatre people and their experiences.  Its focus is on real life as seen through the eyes of today’s youth, just presented in theatrical terms.

One of the reasons it works so well is the quality of the writing.  Developed through a series of workshops with the cast in which individual experiences were related, discussed and expanded upon, the resulting script is a collection of revue-like scenes which have a strong ring of truth about them.  Some of it is raw and some of it is funny.  There are quite shocking moments of pain and disappointment in relationships and friendships as well as naivity and street-wise cynicism.  Writer, Emily Sheehan, has fashioned the content into theatre dialogue that is highly playable and has the ring of truth about it.

The ensemble cast play the multiple scenes with commitment and great energy but more work needs to be done on the clarity of the diction of some of the actors.  The performers’ sense of comic timing produced some good laugh-out-loud moments, especially Jett Aplin in his scene about his interest in salamanders and the girls discussing a step-by-step method to shoplift successfully.  It’s amazing what you can learn at the theatre!

Co-directors Jess Baker and Jaime Winbank have fashioned a fine theatrical production with very little in the way of props and minimal lighting.  Scenes are thoughtfully staged in visually different ways around the stage and the show has a nice flow to it that helps to maintain interest throughout.  The depth of character work in even very small scenes is very effective.

The lighting design by Jayden Beattie and Ethan Hammil is imaginative and effective and their choice of music in the sound design, assisted by Kimmo Vennonen, creates a strong atmosphere.

The really curious thing about this show is how much an older person can relate to the stories these young people tell.  In many ways, it might be a different world out there now, but it seems some aspects of life haven’t changed at all.

Photos from Canberra Youth Theatre website
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s new ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.