Review: The Verbatim Project (Canberra Youth Theatre)

Venue: ATYP (Walsh Bay NSW), Jul 19 – 22, 2017
Director: Katie Cawthorne
Cast: Jean Bennett, Jasper Kilby, Denise Druitt, Jack Hubner, Katie Hubner, Merilyn Jenkins, Carol Mackay, Charlotte Palmer, Sao Hom Palu, Yarno Rohling, Diana Sandeman, Kate Sherren, Elektra Spencer, Ted Stewart, David Turbayne, Quinten Van Rooy

Theatre review
The cast is comprised of ten young Canberrans, from 14 to 16 of age, and six seniors, 65 to 80 years old. The Verbatim Project is a conversation across generations, offering an opportunity to look at how we contrast, and how we are consistent, within this unusual juxtaposition of peoples.

In their show, we hear thoughts about things that matter to Australians today, political, social and personal, through a wide variety of theatrical devices that help keep things interesting. Sound and video recordings, accompany the live physicality of its performers, consciously presented in movement and installation; using a multi-faceted approach to speak, without the use of a conventional narrative.

Director Katie Cawthorne and lighting designer Brynn Somerville, have structured a show that reveals the best of its cast. It is not a professional troupe, but all their strong suits are sensitively emphasised, with no distractions permitted to shift us away from a tightly assembled production. The text can sometimes be refreshing, but is generally predictable, with nothing controversial ever finding itself in the mix. It is a middle class look at middle class Australia, polite and well-meaning, and very civilised indeed.

There is a rigidity in The Verbatim Project that prevents anything from going wrong, but because nothing is left to chance, we are rarely able to discern the genuine connections between the personalities we meet. They are all too busy following instructions to let us in, on something more impulsive or spontaneous. Behind smoke and mirrors, we never really discover if the chasm of half a century can be bridged. Age can be made irrelevant, or it can mean everything.

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