Onefivezeroseven cast. Picture: Jon Green

THEATRE
Onefivezeroseven
By Suzie Miller
3.5 stars
Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre
Review: David Zampatti

Our political parties would do well to dig deep into Suzie Miller's Onefivezeroseven for a glimpse into the lives and opinions of the next generation of voters and leaders.

They'd find that the 2400 kids Miller and director John Sheedy interviewed directly or online around Australia and distilled into an hour of candid, revealing theatre have strong views on themselves and their country. Their political support may still be up for grabs but it will come with strings attached.

As they did two years ago in Driving into Walls, Miller and Sheedy use young performers who are primarily dancers to represent these kids and their thoughts. They are also strong actors, and the result is more nuanced than its predecessor.

Onefivezeroseven is also far more optimistic and, I suspect, more representative of what's happening for most young people. My great reservation about Driving into Walls was its bleakness: there was an awful sadness and cynicism in the kids in that play, and something deeply troubling if violence and sexual exploitation, addiction, abortion and suicide were the things they wanted to talk about.

There's more playfulness and confidence in the kids this time. The title refers to the average number of items they have in their bedrooms (staggering, isn't it?) and it's there that we find them.

Tilly (Jacinta Larcombe) and Hayden (Harrison Elliot) itemise their precious possessions, Grace (the effervescent Yilin Kong) proudly lists her collection of all things duck.

It's not all fun and games, though. Jesse (Toby Derrick) has the usual boy stuff hidden in his room but he's also got a handgun. He doesn't know why and we hope he never finds out.

Also unsettling is the story of a young girl's (Larcombe) sexual initiation at 15. She's used, and abused, by the boys in a neighbouring house but it's her attitude to it that is disquieting. Sex is everywhere in these kids' lives. It's the greatest secret they keep from the adult world.

Secrecy runs through most stories, represented by games of hide-and-seek that punctuate the play. Danielle Micich's sprightly choreography is highly entertaining, and her young charges throw themselves into her routines with wonderful energy. Here, too, the mood is less troubled, the dancing less ferocious, than in Driving into Walls.

Strangely, the most powerful part of the show is its least satisfying. The story of a young boy (Mohammed-Adel Berrached) who sees his neighbour killed by a bomb blast in Beirut and, later, suffers the cruelty and indignity of anti-Muslim bigotry in Australia is important and saddening but its broader picture sits a little uncomfortably with the play's other, more intimate, stories.

The openly political segments at the end also bothered me. I've no doubt the opinions Miller and Sheedy bring to the stage were genuine (in which case, watch out Tony Abbott - the light at the end of the tunnel is a train heading your way) but their tone was a little too smug and self-important.

It was the only time in this fine production where you felt words had been put in our kids' mouths.

The West Australian

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