Youth theatre comes of age with modern classic
SEVEN talented young performers star in Youth Theatre Project production All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane, which opens at The Arts Centre Gold Coast tonight.
Presented in blackbox theatre The Space in partnership with the Queensland Theatre Company, the plays stars Estelle Snowball, Steven Gill, Christina Fern, Rebecca Roscoe, Daniel Chlonta, Courtney Ammenhauser and Samuel Hughes under the direction of Hugh Parker.
Local lad Gill, 19, makes his stage debut as Michael in the comedic play about twenty-somethings in Brisbane trying to figure out whether they want to do ‘‘the overseas thing’’ or stay in their hometown – and what they risk by choosing either option.
Undergoing a crisis of confidence, Michael’s best friend Anthea (Roscoe) is overworked, has no boyfriend, is struggling at work and all her friends are leaving Brisbane.
‘‘I live in Molendinar on the Gold Coast and commute to UQ (in Brisbane) for study and I think that’s what really connects me to the story,’’ Gill says.
‘‘The schools mentioned in the play are the ones my uni friends attended, so I’ve been able to hash out with them exactly what life is like up there. I’ve asked them why in Year 12 they decided to stay in Brisbane while their friends decided to leave, and that has really helped develop my character.
‘‘When I finished school I had people ask me why I wanted to study in Brisbane instead of the Coast, so I’ve also been able to draw on those feelings and experiences of ‘wanting a change’. When I read through the script, I realised just how much Michael was like me. He’s really analytical and works through things logistically in his head and I’m studying science and was able to connect with him on that level.
‘‘I had been looking to audition for a local production for a while, but a lot of the recent shows on the Coast have been musicals and I can’t sing, or they’ve been really serious such as Shakespeare. So when this comedy came up, I thought it was just the light-hearted, funny piece I wanted to audition for.’’
Despite its young cast (aged 19 to 23), Parker says Brisbane writer Stephen Vagg’s play appeals to people of all ages.
‘‘In the compressed time we had at rehearsals we wanted to pick out and piece together as many connecting points as possible,’’ he says.
‘‘We discussed loving and hating where you’re from and what that means in relation to all aspects of life – from the people and places you know to the choices you make.’’
Parker, who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, arrived in Australia in 2006.
His performance credits include The Pitch, Kelly, Fractions, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Clean House, Betrayal and 25 Down for the Queensland Theatre Company and TV roles in Sea Patrol, Doctors, Jonathan Creek, Wild West, The Office and People Like Us.
He says he was impressed with the standard of the young performers who auditioned for the project.
‘‘The calibre of many who auditioned was so high – it was a pleasure to be confronted with such a tough decision of who to cast,’’ he says.
‘‘I think we’re seeing some rare talent being given the opportunity to go through the professional process.
‘‘We’re treating them as if they’ve stepped into a professional show. I want them to knuckle down and work hard and want to grow as performers.
‘‘We’ve got a split in the cast with four people from Brisbane and three from the Coast, with all of them studying at college or uni in Brisbane.
‘‘Like any good piece of work, we are hoping to put an image in the mind of audience members about having a relationship with a particular city.
‘‘It’s about claiming our own choices and life and saying ‘This is where I’m at’.’’
All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane plays The Arts Centre Gold Coast tonight until Saturday at 7.30pm.
– JESSICA HUXLEY
Brisbane director Hugh Parker