Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Theatre review "You Can’t Tell Anyone", by Joanna Richards for Canberra Youth Theatre. At The Canberra Theatre Courtyard Studio, August 11. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN.

 “You Can’t Tell Anyone”, is a new Australian play for young people, commissioned, produced and published by Canberra Youth Theatre as their inaugural Emerging Playwright Commission.

 The action takes place over one night in a single location, someone’s parent’s house. Eight young people, all but one of whom have just finished high school, are ready to party.

 The hosts are two sisters who have recently lost their psychologist father to suicide. Another young man’s mother has a terminal disease. But this is a time for hope and celebration. Soon everything will change as they head off to university and adulthood.

 The opening scenes are peppered with current cultural references but these characters could belong to any generation.

 Joanna Richards describes her play as a philosophical thriller. It reflects a time in life where young people are drawn to the mysteries of philosophy, psychology and the occult as they begin to differentiate themselves from their families and their peers.

 Within the confines of a family loungeroom, lined with the dead father’s books, fragility, betrayal and social cruelty abound. The text is rich with quick and complex dialogue which is often has several conversations running simultaneously across the eight characters.

 Director, Caitlin Baker and her accomplished cast delivered a tight a polished rendition of this play that has potential to become a perennial favorite for student productions.

 In this case the play was presented as 110-minute one act.  The energy was high and momentum strong but it was dense with dialogue. Movement, lighting and sound dynamics could have been used to dwell for a few moments in transitions of mood and time. There was a sense that the play needed space to breath.

 Perhaps if staged over two acts and allowed to run slightly longer, it may have been a more satisfying show.

Nonetheless this is a fine demonstration of Canberra’s Youth Theatre’s commitment to developing young theatre artists and of its growing contribution to our national youth theatre culture.