Review: Young Pretender (New Theatre)

newtheatreVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 13 – 17, 2016
Playwright: E. V. Crowe
Director: Mark G Nagle
Cast: Ryan Bown, Shaun McEachern, Madelaine Osborn
Image by Caitlin Hodder

Theatre review
Bonnie Prince Charlie plays a significant part in the Scottish psyche. His failed Jacobite rising of 1745 is a representation of the problematic relationship many perceive to exist between Scotland and the United Kingdom. E. V. Crowe’s Young Pretender is a re-imagined account of the young man at his most memorable. It is a play that relies on an audience’s assumed knowledge, if not a shared passion for the legendary figure. A regular Australian crowd is at best indifferent about the show’s protagonist, and many of us would be forgiven to be completely ignorant about his legacy and indeed, eighteenth century Scottish history.

Without sufficient initiation into its context, the production can prove disorienting. No great effort is made to adapt the work for its dislocated audience, and we struggle to find relevance in any of its drama. The cast is attractive and energetic, but characters being portrayed remain distant, even though good focus is displayed on stage. It is noteworthy however, that Caitlin Hodder’s costumes are cleverly designed, flattering, and the sole visual element that aims to provide the production with a sense of style.

We all love a rebel. We spend must of our lives adhering to rules and regulations, only to find discontentment as compensation. In our stories, we look to those who dare to resist the constraints and encumbrances of society, to walk their own paths so that we may follow in their footsteps, if only in our fantasies. Making art in today’s state of advanced capitalism, is often an act of great defiance. Only a select few are rewarded appropriately, while the rest spend their time creating with little hope of considerable support or approval. We cannot base all our decisions on reward and accolades; some wars are to be be fought even when defeat is anticipated, for the meaning of life lies somewhere beyond the sovereignty of money and power. True artists will do what they have to do regardless of the oppressive nature of our environment, and only pretenders will ever be hampered by the will of others.