Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth is a whirlwind that simultaneously sweeps up and discards an overabundance of youth issues only to make them resurface again in a laborious ongoing spiral.
New Brisbane company Soulmark chose This is Our Youth as their inaugural work but unfortunately the efforts in production are outweighed by a poor script and an often flawed direction.
Lonergan’s first major play deals with a schizophrenic relationship between two friends, Dennis (Adam Hunter) and Warren (Jaydn Bowe). Kicked out of home, Warren arrives on Dennis’s doorstep with a bagful of money he stole from his father. Most of the first act is spent arguing about what to do or not do with the money. That two smackheads can manage to verse strings of verbose repartee in between their inane banter is tenuous at best and this is one of the problems with the script (a common problem in plays depicting youth today). After no clear resolution, Warren’s crush, Jessica (Tanya Dougherty), arrives at the door leading to more helter skelter discussion that skims but never details some very serious albeit disconnected issues from drug abuse to American politics. Nevertheless some money ends up spent and Dennis and Warren have to find a way to get it back.
The actors’ obvious passion and enthusiasm for their work is deserving of applause. Hunter is a convincing druggo even though frequent yelling hampers much of his performance. (A shame considering his capable accent and wonderful voice resonance). Bowe acts the innocent rich kid gone wrong with a wide-eyed enthusiasm often capturing the idiosyncrasies of youth. Tanya Dougherty pushes her character to the height of emotion but we never understand the roots of Jessica’s visible neuroticism. Dougherty and Bowe do engage in some nice scenes depicting suitable teenage awkwardness, resulting in some laughs from the audience.
Scott Alderdice’s direction shows potential, but needs more emphasis on pace (as the show labors with frequent and unnecessary pauses) and the prevention of cyclic emotion and action on stage. Variation in line delivery rather than the choice of constant yelling may have also picked up on some of the nuances in the character relationships. Again this wasn’t helped by a script which rehashes but never resolves itself.
The performance space in the Judith Wright Centre has been cleverly chosen to suit the basic apartment set. Traffic noise and street lights from outside which would hamper any other performance add to the believability of the scenery. The technical side of the production is infallible with music and lights perfectly on cue.
This is Our Youth has a nice niche as part of National Youth Week: some of the issues though only partially explored need to be heard. This certainly isn’t my youth but it may indeed be someone else’s.