A glass box, five young physical performers, five chairs, pulsating music and lighting - Driving into Walls is like a stream of urgent emails, text messages and tweets from the West Australians who will take over tomorrow.
This production is the creative outcome of a project where director John Sheedy and playwright Suzie Miller asked more than 500 young people about their lives. Through a blend of verbatim stories, statistics and physical theatre, the play captures the rhythms and vernacular of young people.
The project has been favourably highlighted in the report by Paul Collard, the Commissioner for Children's Thinker in Residence, for its capacity to "expose what the people who will shape the future of this country really think".
The tight ensemble - Harrison Elliot, Michael Smith, Ricki Bremner, Thalia Livingstone and Matthew Tupper - physically embody and give voice to many diverse lives collected through the interviews. They throw themselves with energy and fearlessness at, through and around the Perspex box that sits centre stage.
Their sweaty physicality effectively captures Danielle Micich's choreography, blending street and contemporary dance.
Each performer communicates well-orchestrated, high-impact sound bites (vocal coaching by Luzita Fereday).
This production pulls no punches in addressing the thoughts, concerns and lives of young people. School, parents, bullying, sex, drugs, alcohol (to name a few) are interwoven in poetic riffs that take the audience beyond expected cliches. This material is likely to be confronting to some audience members but it is undeniably frank, honest and authentic. The sound track by Kingsley Reeve provides light and shade from driving beats to more reflective moments. Along with projected images by digital artist Sohan Hayes and powerful directional lighting by Matthew Marshall, the design elements contribute to the tightness of the acting. The production runs for nearly 60 compelling minutes.
The play concludes with a question delivered directly to the audience: Do you trust me? Do you?
This production is a potent reminder to all of the need for more youth-focused theatre in the Perth International Arts Festival, which is showing the way with Barking Gecko.
Perhaps it is time to revive the commissions that brought together such youth companies as the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra STEPS Dance and the WA Youth Theatre Company.
There are voices waiting to be heard and this production is a loud, high-impact start. <div class="endnote">