Sunday, August 13, 2023

YOU CAN'T TELL ANYONE - Canberra Youth Theatre


Ella Buckley (Gwen) - Emily O'Mahoney (Tilly) - Paris Scharkie (Kat) - Jessi Gooding (Willa) - Isaiah Prichard (Luke) - Jake Robinson (Jeremy) - Lachlan Houen (Benny) in 
"You Can't Tell Anyonone". 

Written by Joanna Richards – Directed by Caitlin Baker

Set and Costumes designed by Kathleen Kershaw – Lighting designed by Ethan Hamill

Sound Designer and Composer: Patrick Haesler – Stage Managed by Rhiley Winnett

Canberra Theatre Centre Courtyard Studio: August 10th – 20th August 2023.

Premiere Performance on August 10th reviewed by Bill Stephens

Teenager, Gwen, invites a group of her classmates to one more final-year party at her parent’s home which she and her sister Tilly are looking after in her parent’s absence.

Careless alcohol consumption and party drugs fuel the atmosphere. When one of the friends unwittingly reveals a confidence, someone suggests a truth-telling game.  Not all are enthusiastic, but rules are set and despite some reluctance, everyone agrees to participate.

Though this is not a particularly original premise for a play, it remains an effective one, and playwright Joanna Richards makes clever use of the device to craft an absorbing exploration into the attitudes of contemporary youth on such matters as HECS, ATAR, religion, superstition, grief, sexual consent, loyalty and relationships as they negotiate the transition into adulthood.

Richards has a keen ear for the nuances of contemporary teenage vocabulary, which provides each of her eight characters with an authenticity which allows the audience to be drawn into their lives and concerns.

Although all the action takes place in the lounge room of a suburban home, Caitlin Baker, who is making her Canberra Youth Theatre directorial debut, cleverly avoids the possibility of the play becoming static by taking full advantage of Kathleen Kershaw’s attractive, carefully detailed, setting, to keep her actors moving around it naturalistically. Even when the dialogue overlaps, as it generally does in such situations, she manages to keep the audience attention clearly focussed.

Baker has also managed to draw strongly committed performances from each of her ensemble cast so that no particular actor dominates and all maintain character throughout.

Jessi Gooding (Tilly) - Ella Buckley (Gwen) - Breanna Kelly (Nicole) - Paris Scharkie (Kat) - Lachlan Houen (Benny) - Isaiah Prichard (Luke) - Jake Robinson (Jeremy)
in "You Can't Tell Anyone"

Ella Buckley and Emily O’Mahoney play sisters, Gwen and Tilly, at whose house the party takes place. Gwen is confident and ambitious but frustrated by her shy young sister’s initial refusal to participate in the party.

Paris Scharkie plays the cynical, contrarian, Kat, and Jessi Gooding plays the superstitious Willa, who, it turns out, is not as innocent as everyone had thought.

Isaiah Prichard plays the golden boy and life-of-party, Luke, while Lachlan Houen plays his proudly gay friend, Benny. Jake Robinson plays Gwen’s boyfriend, Jeremy, and Breanna Kelly is Nicole, the group outcast with a mind of her own.

Each has an unsuspected secret, but it is how the party participants react to each of the revelations, as well as the moments of surrealism, that provides the play with its intrigue and keeps the audience guessing.  

                                                  Images by Andrew Sikorski

This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.