Tuesday, December 14, 2021




Written by Michael Costi. Directed by Luke Rogers. Canberra Youth Theatre. Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre.December 9 – 14 2021. Bookings. 62485057

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins



Martha Russell as Girlfriend, Blue Hyslop as the

  New Best Friend and Elliott Cleaves as Boyfriend

Under Luke Rogers’ artistic leadership, Canberra Youth Theatre’s senior acting ensemble has taken on a new gloss. His production of Michael Costi’s affectionately cynical Two Twenty Somethings Decide Never To Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again is slick and smart.  In the Courtyard Studio of the Canberra Theatre Centre Aislinn King’s stylish design lends the setting a professional  touch. In fact the entire production smacks of mainstage expertise. Rogers has gathered together an extremely able production team in  designer King, sound designer Kimmo Vennonen and lighting designer Antony Hateley, and it shows in the excellent production values. Although staged in the landscape configuration in the small Courtyard Studio, the production retains its connection and immediacy, largely due to the exploding energy of stress from Costi’s anxious Girlfriend (Martha Russell) and Elliott Cleaves’ neurotic Boyfriend.

Playwright Costi has written a witty and bitter sweet comedy that provides the ideal vehicle to showcase the impressive skills of members of Youth Theatre’s older production company of 18-25 year olds. This is a play for the tribe, readily recognizable, instantly engaging and a sitcom for the post traumatic teens on the cusp of adult agonizing. When the play begins Boyfriend  and Girlfriend   are living together in a state of constant stress as they grapple with life’s enormous challenges of preparing a meal in the kitchen or desperately trying to evade a power bill. Even failing to pay $2 on the Spotify subscription causes a major stress and matters simply get worse as the girlfriend finds her profile hacked by a discontented Uber driver and the Boyfriend falls into the pit of  obsession as an employee at a Chicken Fiesta outlet.

Russellll and Cleaves give excellent performances as the two Milleniums trapped in the vortex of suffocating stress and riding the roller-coaster of life’s highs and lows. Their timing is impeccable, their self-obsession ridiculous and their volatile outbursts erupt with Costi’s snappy one liners and mocking humour. It’s moments like this that you need a friend. Enter the New Best Friend (Blue Hyslop), a bongo beating retro hippie to be the bridge over troubled waters and teach them to chill. To little avail. A spark, a flash, a careless quip and the storm erupts with irrepressible force leaving the audience in fits of laughter as they watch themselves struggle to keep their resolve to eliminate their stress. But neither whispered live streaming, Chicken Fiesta drive by attendance or a chilled out New Best Friend could relieve the couple’s stress-possessed nature.  

And so, here is perhaps the one indication of a deeper significance in Costi’s comedy. Can we change our nature? Is stress an inevitable invader? Or is the Big Pineapple the Mecca of the mixed up manics? At the end of the Epilogue and the closing projection on the screen the audience is thanked for coming and encouraged to chill out. Seventy minutes of non stop laughter at the actors loud ( a little too loud from the guys for my ears),furiously lively performances may leave the audience merrily chilled after identifying with their tribe or the seemingly silly preoccupations of the young.  After all, it’s not the end of the world – or is it? Director Rogers and his team have served up a highly commendable production, tailor made for Youth Theatre's impressively talented theatre makers. Two Twenty Somethings Decide Never To Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again, Ever is entertainment with a capital E that will have audiences leaving the theatre with a stress-free smile on their face . Maybe that’s enough, until one confronts what may be waiting outside the door.