Powerful play comes with a warning

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“Collapse”… The didactic and dramatic sides of the script merge to create a powerful and clever, complex allegory that clearly warns the viewers about being complacent with the planet. Photo: Em Roberts

Theatre / “Collapse”, by Grace Morgan, at Canberra Youth Theatre, until August 17. Reviewed by ARNE SJOSTEDT. 

IT’S a fine thing when theatre slowly grabs its audience, drawing them in and extending a welcome to its analytical mind. The welcome came early, from an invitation by Billie Eilish’s hit song “Bad Guy”, and from the cleverly sculpted movement piece well executed by the talented cast.

Set off by quality light design from Anthony Arblaster and a simple but effective set, this was a powerful opening to what panned out to be a cleverly written play. The episodic work slowly drew together a range of story arcs. Among them an absent minded, distracted youth caught up in a video war game. His cautious, worried but ultimately powerless friend. A young man and woman with an unresolved past.  

Injected between these mini natives were slightly overly didactic pieces that taught the audience about the dangers of past civilisation collapse, and warned it against reaching a tipping point where the same might happen in the real world. 

Placed together, this led me to ask – what function would these mini narratives play in the play’s broader message? In a stunning final scene, the threads are pulled together. The didactic and dramatic sides of the script merge to create a powerful and clever, complex allegory that clearly warns the viewers about being complacent with the planet and their way of life.

Confidently directed (by Luke Rogers), expertly sown together through movement (from Chenoeh Miller), music (designed by Kimmo Vennonen) and strong acting – a gentler touch in some of the dramatic scenes may have been welcome. It is tempting to over play conflict on stage, and some of these younger actors should strive to search for new, more realistic ways to deliver their intentions and explore greater variation in their expression when called upon to be emotional. But that is part of the journey and growth that lies ahead of these participants in the Canberra Youth Theatre’s company ensemble, part of the company’s emerging artists program for young performers. 

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