Not all stories are universal. There will be characters we are interested in, and others that we do not give two hoots about. Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth is a lamentation of sorts about spoilt rich kids. It is concerned with the neglected offspring of wealthy baby boomers, providing a perspective of new money in 1980’s Manhattan and the repercussions on its subsequent generation. Lonergan’s script is full of mischief and energy, but embodies the pointlessness of the characters it portrays. Their lives are lost, frivolous and sordid. Everything is dazed and confused, but the writing provides a rich and colourful inventory of drama and jokes for an electrifying work of theatre, and this is what The Kings Collective delivers.
The cast is extraordinary. Three young actors, sublime as a group but individually sensational, give a performance that is quite literally flawless. They all make bold choices that delight and surprise us, but are always thoughtful and sensitive to the creation of depth in their characters. We are enthralled by the dynamism in their work but never lose sight of contexts and circumstances. Joshua Brennan is Dennis, the misguided alpha male, whose bravado, anger and aggression are the only things getting him through life that do not come in small self-sealing plastic bags. Brennan’s range begins at bombastic, and then escalates further. His work is outrageously flamboyant but completely engaging, and one is able to sense a lot of substance behind his delicious madness. The material gives him many opportunities for comedy and he executes them brilliantly, but poignant moments at the end are slightly less effective even though his portrayal continues to be convincing.
Georgia Scott transforms the supporting role of Jessica into a memorable one. She fools us with a Barbie-esque appearance and surreptitiously shifts the play into intellectual gear. Scott brings a palpable complexity with strength, humour and tenderness, creating an authentic sentimentality that gives the production its humanistic aspect. Her romantic scenes with Warren are beautiful and real, allowing the play to speak compassionately, albeit fleetingly. The feminine voice is only secondary in the play, but Scott’s work is disproportionately impressive.
Warren is a clever young man who suffers from a lack of confidence and direction. He allows his father and friends to dominate him, and seeks refuge in drugs to silence his intelligence. Scott Lee’s moving depiction of that impotency gives the play its weight, and his comedic flair sets the tone of the production. Lee’s phenomenal chemistry with both colleagues shows an openness in approach that gives theatre its sizzle, and every second is kept lively by his marvelous commitment and presence.
Direction of the piece by Dan Eady ensures excellent entertainment and precise storytelling, without an instance of misplaced focus or loss of energy. This is the tightest of ships that any captain can hope to deploy. Audiences will laugh, be touched, and be provoked into thought, but the play’s social message is not a particularly potent one. It is hard to summon up any empathy for the very rich, even if they are innocent young adults. This Is Our Youth is thrilling and amusing, and while it does have some depth, they can be tenuous. Fortunately, theatre is about the craft as much as it is about meanings, and on this occasion, the artists are alchemists that have turned lead into gold.