1º of Separation. Canberra Youth Theatre's Generation Group directed by Simone Penkethman. C Block, Gorman House Arts Centre, Wednesday to Saturday July 28 - August 7, 2004, 8 pm.
For this Youth Theatre production I have coined the term Eclectic Theatre. Over the course of a little less than an hour we see mime, dance, symbolic movement and imagery, naturalistic dialogue, poetry and stylised use of voice, electric and acoustic guitar, and recorded music, birdsong, cars and trucks.
People come in through real doors and windows as well as enter from shadowy wings. People freeze in shadowed areas while others act in the spotlight. They all line up for a curtain call, without a curtain.
Somewhere in here is meant to be a theme, of Canberra characters devised from improvisations, bound together by the four seasons and stretching over time from childhood to old age. Interactions between them all, from the crippled rich Lady Tyreana at the top of the hill to the sandwich bar employee, and every possibility in between, are meant to show how closely we all are connected.
As Linda McHugh, CYT Artistic Director told me, you can do anything in theatre. This show, however, is not as together as many recent CYT performances. Youth theatre is certainly about providing young people the opportunity to explore all aspects of theatre, and this show certainly does that.
But youth theatre should also give its young participants the experience of developing theatrical focus and intensity in their productions. In 1º of Separation every actor has their focussed moment, but the points of focus are not put together into a strong dramatic structure, ending rather weakly with a quite shallow stereotyped representation of two characters from the sandwich bar in old age.
It is, of course, not fair to criticise a youth theatre performance as if it were expected to be equal to a professional production. But I think it is fair to suggest that, though I could see the professionalism of the direction in each actor's performance skills, in movement and speech - I should also have seen a better shaping of the work to take it from the improvisation of scenes into an hour long show.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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