Thursday, May 25, 2023

THE TRIALS - Canberra Youth Theatre

Written by Dawn King – Directed by Luke Rogers

Lighting design by Ethan Hammill – Sound designer and composer – Patrick Haesler

Canberra Theatre Centre Courtyard Studio: 19 -28 May 2023.

Performance on May 24th reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

The Jurors come to a verdict

For those in the audience of a certain age, “The Trails”, is uncomfortable viewing. Dawn King’s sobering imagining of a dystopian future in which the younger generation cull their elders in order to survive themselves has enjoyed great success overseas. 

This production by the Canberra Youth Theatre is its Australian premiere.

The play takes the form of a series of trials which are meant to take place over a period of two weeks.     A jury of twelve young people is tasked with having to decide the fates of older adults who have been called before it to justify their treatment of the planet, in an effort to avoid compulsory euthanization.

 After listening to each defendant, the jury will then have to decide who, if any, will escape the death sentence.

The jurors are played by Edith Baggoley, Imogen Bigsby-Chamberlin, Genevieve Bradley, Alexi Clark Mitchell, Kat Dunkerley, Matthew Hogan,  Joshua James, Aadhya Karthik,  Sebastian Leigh, Tara Saxena, Phoebe Silberman and Jacqueline Tatam.                                                                               

With the audience arranged on either side of the playing area, and the jury members at either end, the first three victims, played by Michael Sparks, Zsuzsi Soboslay and Elaine Noon, are ushered in by a mysterious faceless figure, one by one.  

After each has presented their monologue they are dismissed without being questioned, and the jurors then argue the merits or otherwise of each victim’s case.

 However as the jurors begin to examine each victim’s arguments, their own individual motives and ethics come under question, and deep divisions begin to appear.

Matthew Hogan - Tara Saxena - Alexi Clark Mitchell - Phoebe Silberman and Jacqueline Tatum
deliberate in Canberra Youth Theatre's production of "The Trial".

It’s a fascinating premise which the cast of young actors tackle with obvious commitment. The acting is variable, and while there has been significant improvement in efforts to project voices and slow down delivery, some otherwise good performances were spoiled by a tendency to shout dialogue rather than explore the effectiveness of a more nuanced delivery.

That said, this play is very much an ensemble play in which the twelve young actors are on stage for the entire presentation. It is presented without interval with the audience seated either side. There is nowhere to hide.  That the entire cast was able to maintain concentration and character throughout was admirable.   

Luke Rogers has produced a compelling production of an important play that raises many uncomfortable questions about humanity and survival.  



                                               Images by Ben Appleton - Photox. 

This review is also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.