Intersection 2019 Arrival – the hopeful corruption of young theatre makers. (Theatre Review)

Intersection 2019: Arrival

Stables Theatre ATYP@Griffin

30 Jan – 16 Feb. You can grab your tickets here. 

Images: Tracey Schramm

Socrates, the father of all philosophers, was condemned to death on charges of “corrupting youth.” To paraphrase Socrates via Alain Badiou, corruption of youth does not involve power, sex or money. Actually, it‘s the reverse of these things. For Socrates it was the initiation into what he called ‘The True Life’ or the life of the mind. What is the true life? That is the role of the philosopher to continually examine and answer for each generation. For Socrates the true life was to struggle against prejudices, preconceived ideas, blind obedience, arbitrary customs, and unrestricted competition. Perhaps it is not too much of a stretch to argue theater’s role is similar. Therefore, the only true discourse between a critic in her middle age speaking to a group of talented young theatre makers should be to beg they remain corruptible.[1]

The current manifestation of ATYP’s annual collected works show Intersection 2019: Arrival places ten vignettes written by Australian young people examining the question of arrival at age seventeen. For some young writers it is a literal arrival to a new world after being forced out of an old one. For others it is arriving at an idea, something about themselves or seeing a parent as an independent being for the first time. The ten different takes on the theme are performed via different theatrical genres with twelve marvelous young actors, who use the optimistic beauty of youth to present what amounts to a hopeful show. Each piece reveals the desire to connect with a larger conversation and reveals a drive to express these connections in fresh ways. While the pieces are raw and young, they are emphatically testing the notion of the true life in craft and characterization.

For example, Flynn Hall’s witty comedy Fish Fingers about female masturbation imagines a naive but informed sweetness in the girl’s information rich lives. Teodora Avramovic and Sophie Strykowski ae called forth by director Sophie Kelly into a wonderful interpretation that further charges the short production with two memorable characters that remain long after the night is over.

The production starts with standout play Hannah Cockroft’s A Little Death. Natural comedian Toby Blome launches himself onto a piece of Tyler Ray Hawkins iconic scaffolding set with a bang. He has done something unpalatable, unacceptable and irredeemably young. A nervous Bec (Grace Stamnas) is in the same boat. Scant information is fed via subterfuge by Nadine (Kelly Nguyen). A little Death is the embodiment of an early taste of corruption familiar to us all. Another stand out is Sasha Dyer’s Good Boy, Pretty Girl. Emma Wright and Grace Stamnas give the elegantly crafted characters dark comedic twists as girls play out roles afforded them and inflicted by the sins of their parents. New sisters find a way to make a new family forged against the idea of blind obedience. Another excellent play displaying children living out the shadow self of a parent is Emma Skalicky’s Panopticon. Ellie (Emma Wright) and Rosie (Salem Barrett-Brown) must see their mothers as separate from themselves and make choices about the difference between parental guidance and parental influence. Fine writing makes for fine performances here.

Contemporary issues are dealt with in plays such as Jasper Lee-Lindsay’s The Iceberg, Brook Murray’s Pink Soap, Georgie Adamson’s Real Dry and Joshua Allen’s Two Hours Ahead. In The Iceberg Sophie (Apsara Lindeman) powerfully portrays a young woman dealing with nation state identities and suicide. Pink Soap is a contemporary engagement with poetry, movement and method -particularly well directed by Sophie Kelly. Real Dry and Two Hours Ahead deal with young people and queer themes with apprehension and grace. A strong sense of deeper characterization is present in both plays, particularly Two Hours Ahead, which contains a universal quality that moves beyond political representation. Harry Winsome beautifully represents the archetypal Boy. The delicacy of performances from Kelly Nguyen and Marvin Adler connect with the audience through a beautiful vulnerability.

Comedy and joy are included in the play Dead Things where writer Meg Goodfellow captures youth culture and language with the horror of a suburban every day. Sophie Strykowski and Ryan Hodson strike a particularly persuasive alliance with the audience as the siblings with a mini crisis on their hands. The series is wrapped up with Grace Chapple’s Someday, a homage to weepies, chick flicks and classic films that capture young girls and have the potential to trap them in an amber time. Bebe Bettencourt calls forth her super star persona to be the lost girlfriend and the aspirational figure young females connect to with so much intensity.

ATYP Intersection 2019: Arrival ends up being another one of these powerhouse performances that gives one faith in the future writing and performance of Australian theatre. However more than that, each year, and this in particular, the production gives a sense of youth culture at the overlapping crossroads of conformity and rebellion, blind obedience and the drive to eke out something different. Two temptations at work: the temptation to burn life to the ground, or the temptation to conform to build a castle in the air. Neither suffices and eventually the great writer, director and art maker will seek corruption of something they were blessed with. It is fascinating to see this journey well underway.


[1] The elegance of this idea is further expanded (and far more beautifully written) in The True Life by Alain Badiou