For God, Queen and Country by Thomas Murphy.Canberra Youth Theatre, directed by Garry Fry. Gorman House Arts Centre June 19 – 28, 1997.
Excellent. Rad. Cool. It was exciting to see a new young playwright's work well presented in an intimate setting. The performing space was in-the-round: even in the back row I was close enough to feel almost in Hugh's bedroom.
Sean Smeaton played Hugh lightly, bemused by his life experience. His relationships with his mother (Suzanne Smith), the girl he was always with (Lucy Vincent), Nathan - the boy next door (Robert Hogarth), Brendan (Edward Cocks) who gets a back-hoe apprenticeship, and the apparition of his Religious Education teacher (played by Renee Bechara) were cleverly encased in his poems.
Hugh is awakened to an understanding of himself by his own poems. Tom Murphy displays, in this character, a quite remarkable insight and sense of irony for a writer only a little older than his creation. He has given the actors material which they could genuinely draw on - the first night suggests that they will fill in the colours more strongly as the season progresses. The script is structured very well, taking us through two-edged laughter and contrasting reflective silences, exploring a theme which is revealed to us only gradually as Hugh's self-awareness grows.
This is work which sits well with Youth Theatre. Everyone - audience, actors, writer and director - felt in tune. Murphy has been strongly supported by the Cultural Centre of his home town Queanbeyan, enabling him to be a delegate at last year's Australian National Playwrights' Conference. He learned there, from observing many plays in workshop, how to turn his original set of poems into theatre. CCQ backed him again for a reading with Intima Theatre, leading to the 1996 Young Playwrights' Weekend where the script was polished and prepared for this production.
There is youthful sincerity, a truth of vision and a professionalism in this work which puts Canberra Youth Theatre on the dramatic map, and bodes well for the future career of Thomas Murphy. It's cool; it's rad; and it's excellent.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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