Sunday, August 13, 2023



You Can’t Tell Anyone by Joanna Richards.

Directed by Caitlin Baker, Set and Costume Designer Kathleen Kershaw. Lighting Designer Ethan Hamill. Sound Designer and Composer Patrick Haesler. Stage Manager Rhiley Winnett. Cast: Ella Buckley. Emily O’Mahoney. Jake Robinson. Jessi Gooding. Isaiah Prichard. Paris Scharkie. Lachlan Houen. Breanna Kelly. The Courtyard Studio. Canberra Theatre Centre. August 10 – 20 2023. Bookings: or 02 62752700

 Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Emily O'Mahoney as Tilly, Ella Buckley as Gwen and
Jessi Gooding as Willa in You Can't Tell Anyone
Canberra Youth Theatre’s production of Joanna Richards’ philosophical thriller You Can’t Tell Anyone  raises the bar to a new level of professionalism from the emerging artists. There are several reasons for this. One is of course the taut and tense writing of Richards’ probing insight into the angst ridden world of the adolescent on the cusp of adulthood. Another is the insightful direction by Caitlin Baker who demonstrates an instinctive talent for drawing out truthful and riveting performances from her cast. Another is the assured and profoundly realistic performances of every member of the cast. Finally, this is complemented by the sophisticated production aspects of Kathleen Kershaw’s set and costume design, Ethan Hamill’s lighting and Patrick Haesler’s sound design and composition.

In the intimacy of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s Courtyard Studio the audience is witness to the complex psychological fears of eight friends about to embark on the next phase of their post-secondary school lives. You Can’t Tell Anyone is the perfect play for this company. They can identify only too well with the enormity of the questions they face about themselves, their identity, their friendships, their hopes and their insecurities. It is as much a psychological thriller as it is a philosophical and existential probing into the deepest  and often darkest recesses of the human psyche.

The plot is simple. Gwen decides to throw a party at her home to celebrate the end of the school year. She invites her friends and decides to play a game. Paranoia, inspired by her late father’s book on the condition, becomes an ominous truth telling in which the friends are compelled to reveal secrets about each other. In a cruel toss of a coin a whispered secret is given to another person who must then confront the subject of that secret with a cruel truth. The philosophical thriller becomes a psychological nightmare in a paranormal and supernatural universe from which there is no escape.

Breanna Kelly as Nicole, Paris Scharkie as Kat and Ella Buckley as Gwen

Richards has written a taut and terrifying account of adolescent secrets, cruelly exposed as the fragile veneer of friendship is stripped away during the game. The play is still too long as it reveals the fragility of each guest caught in a web of accusations. It is to the credit of each member of the ensemble that they are able to convincingly sustain the tension and the gripping interest in each character. Baker creates an entirely believable atmosphere so that we feel as though we are in the room with the characters, voyeurs to the unfolding calamity and faced with the question of what is true friendship and what does it mean to be true to oneself. Unfortunately I do not have a character list so that I am unable to single out each performance, but You Can’t Tell Anyone is the epitome of excellent ensemble work and needs no singling out.  

Jake Robinson as Jeremy,Isaiah Prichard as Luke,Breanna Kelly
as Nicole. Jessi Gooding as Willa. Lachlan Houen as Benny
(hidden), Paris Schaekie as Kat and Ella Buckley as Gwen 

You Can’t Tell Anyone is more than an ideal vehicle for Canberra Youth Theatre’s emerging artists to explore their world and learn more about themselves through the art of theatre. It is a beacon of hope for the future generation of theatre makers. You Can’t Tell Anyone is a highly professional and compelling production of a promising new playwright’s world premiere work. It would do Canberra Youth Theatre proud on any intimate professional stage. This is youth theatre at its best.