Sunday, 5 June 2016

Crave - WA Youth Theatre Company (3 June 2016)

The West Australian Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCo) plays a pivotal role in fostering the State’s young talent not only in performance but in commissioning new work such as On The Face of Things recently seen at Fringe World. Checking the programme for Crave, its members also fill the key crew positions under director Renato Fabretti. It’s a great opportunity for the next generation of actors and theatre makers to tackle challenging works and present them in quality venues such as the State Theatre Centre. Interestingly, there is an influx of students from Curtin University, another great hub of burgeoning theatrical endeavour.

Previous WAYTCo productions of note in the last few years include Mine, the self-devised Wind, Another Twin, the explosive Punk Rock, and Hellie Turner’s ANZAC themed The Dreaming Hill. All have introduced exciting new talent while presenting productions incorporating themes that resonant with their key demographic.

Crave is perhaps the most complex iteration of this intent. Playwright Sarah Kane’s storytelling, while rhythmic and lyrical, is oblique and confronting. Its content touches on our darker impulses while exploring isolation, loss, obsessive love and how traits handed down from generation to generation cripple and empower us. Four characters, assigned only a letter, present their stories and occasionally interact with each other verbally. There is almost no movement other than a turned head, the odd hand gesture. Each actor faces the audience on a slightly raised platform rooted to the spot. They are exposed, vulnerable, having only their voice, their eyes, and complete trust in their fellow actors as rhythm and cadence here is everything. A dropped line, an unintentional pause would act like a domino effect to ruin the symphony of cascading thoughts. There is one lengthy monologue delivered by A that would otherwise mark him as the main character. But this play is the sum of all its fractured parts.

I was fortunate enough to briefly witness a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago. What impressed was the focus on those rhythms in the writing. On imparting emphasis and meaning in the generally short, sharp exchanges that bounce off each other. There is a lot of point and counterpoint; opposing declarations and thought bubbles; unexpected confessions. It is precise and exacting.

For the run Fabretti has chosen to have alternating casts. Ally Harris doubled up as C due to the other actress being unavailable for reasons that highlight the quality of young performers amongst their ranks. On opening night Harris was joined by Luke Binetti as A, George Ashforth as B and Megan Hollier as M. The other cast features Declan Brown (A), Odne Stenseth (B) and Daisy Coyle (M).

How then to review a show that is unique in writing, style and presentation? Where the actors do not move, where their characters have no names, and their stories are fragmented and tenuously intertwined. A matter further complicated by a lighting design that for a large portion of the opening night production saw the actors’ eyes cast in shadow. This surely was unintentional and will be corrected during the rest of the run as it robbed the audience of a key weapon in the actors’ arsenal.

Given its construction this is a hive organism and the four actors worked well as a unit. The rhythm and pace was quickly established and never faltered. The diction and enunciation was clear. Luke Binetti is a fine young actor who burst onto the scene with Punk Rock and consolidated his presence in The Dreaming Hill. George Ashforth has emerged as a key player at the Hayman Upstairs at Curtin with his recently penned Everyone Is Gone Except Me adding another string to his artistic bow. Crave served as an introduction to Ally Harris and Megan Hollier and on the strength of this I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Of the alternate cast, Declan Brown excelled in Punk Rock and 2015 Fringe World production Metalhead and is another actor with a bright future. Daisy Coyle continues to do good work at Curtin and I was encouraged to see her involved with WAYTCo. I am not familiar with Odne Stenseth but given the pedigree of his fellow performers and Fabretti’s track record I have no doubt he will hit the mark here.

This is the second time I have seen Crave as Curtin actually did it a couple of years ago. I can’t say it’s a play I particularly warm to but as a showcase for the discipline and precision required by the actors it is a worthy addition to WAYTCo’s canon.

Written by Sarah Kane, directed by Renato Fabretti and starring Declan Brown, Odne Stenseth, Ally Harris, Daisy Coyle, Luke Binetti, George Ashforth, and Megan Hollier, Crave is on at State Theatre Centre until 11 June.

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