The Violent Outburst that Drew Me To You – Kate Gaul and the smell of teen spirit. (Theatre Review)

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The Violent Outburst that Drew me to You

Griffin Theatre with Siren Theatre Company

18 June to 12 July. You can grab tickets here.

We all know that overwhelming frustrated anger that the human caught between a departure from childhood and the passage into adulthood experiences. Is everyone around me stupid? is the cry of the teenager, as they struggle against the truth of inauthenticity – that your lies are as real as your truths, and that the wisdom of your parents turns out to be social assimilation. It’s a horrible time. I don’t know anyone who skidded with great joy through their teens, and yet, like having a baby, it is one of those painful, impossible to prepare for, experiences. You wish so much that your parents could make it all go away, and at the same time, you are waking up to their mediocrity, and the mediocrity of being human. It will be years before real joy can be felt again, but the occasions where you get to feel like a kid on Christmas Eve will be painfully rare. Of course maturity has its own pleasures, but these are not necessarily available for the unstable, nervous, pouting teen. What to do when you are an angry teen? What to do when you are responsible for an angry teen? Perhaps a spot in the woods, ah-la Henry David Thoreau is in order? After all, what is teen rebellion, but a youthful form of civil disobedience?

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The respect afforded adolescence by writer Finegan Kruckemeyer, director Kate Gaul and performer Michael Cutrupi holds the key to the unifying voice of The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You, bonding those most disparate of social positions, teens and their parents. Connor (Michael Cutrupi) is a cranky teen, always picking fights with everyone, experiencing his first taste of formal social objection, tainted with the solipsism of the teen years. There is something wrong with everyone in Connor’s world, from his opt-out stoner friend Timo, through to his Uncle Mal who he used to think was cool, but now he knows better. His parents (Emily Ayoub and Anthony Weir) used to be able to ship him off to the uncles place, but things have reached breaking point and when Connor slugs his friend Timo (Anthony Weir) after provoking an argument with him, Mum and Dad send him off to a cabin in the woods, built by his deceased grandfather, to find a way to gain some sort of peace. We also suspect they are seeking their own break. In the forest Connor meets Lotte (Emily Ayoub, Renee Heys and Natalia Ladyko) and through her, is able to get a better assessment of himself.

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Kate Gaul directs a vibrant, busy production taking elements of childhood transitioning into adulthood to contextualise Connor’s overwhelming frustration in the face of his impossible to understand anger. Despite the potency of the feelings of the teenage years, Gaul never forgets the  melodrama of teen life, moving the cast from precise deft dance movement to hilarious melodramatic teen-torch songs, to philosophical musings on the relationship of the individual with the world. Ash Bee’s dynamic choreography accompanied by a racing musical score by Daryl Wallis is handled with adroit precision by the cast making for an engrossing, breathless experience.  Gaul knows how to play her casts strengths, using each of them to draw the audience in closer without the fear of an overwhelming experience in the face of as small a stage as the Griffin Theatre, where so much energy could consume everything around it.  The cast incorporate prop and set changes within their performance, here including shadow puppetry, there including matching costumes that might bond parents as an immovable force, or three women into the multiple aspects of a single, fascinating teenage girl. It is the energy of teen spirit pouring through everything that brings us closest to the heart of Connor and at the same time contributes to the invisible walls he insists on placing between himself and the world. The Violent Outburst that Drew me To You makes itself as available to teens as it does adults, navigating an impossible terrain skillfully. I found myself wondering how a teenager would react to the performance, and what they would glean from the respect afforded their position in the world, as this is a play alive and unexpected enough to maintain the attention of the most ardently contrarian youth.

But most of all, this is Michael Cutrupi’s show who uses his physical presence with grace and exuberance, making him a compelling vision throughout the performance. His audience engagement is total, creating an enthralling experience for any theater lover.

 

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