Review: yourseven by WA Youth Theatre Company

Nerida Dickinson

Haunting immersive theatre with comforting, humorous, thought-provoking and confronting personal responses to a Shakespearean concept.
Review: yourseven by WA Youth Theatre Company

Photo credit: Aaron Weber

‘All the world’s a stage,’ begins the famous Shakespeare speech from As You Like It, detailing the seven stages of a man’s life. Working with the WA Youth Theatre Company, James Berlyn develops the concept of seven stages of life in an interactive production that takes individual audience members through a series of seven photo booths to interrogate the Elizabethan concepts behind the speech and our own progress through life. The seven stages – infant, student, lover, soldier, judge, elder and imminent death – are distinct chapters in this experience.

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Beyond a simple representation of each 'stage', the performers have further workshopped challenges with Shakespeare’s assumptions and the translation of these stages into the modern world and life experience. These concerns are raised, but performances are tailored to enhance the experience of each stage in accessible, whimsical ways. Admirable performances from the young actors provide contrasting responses in each scene, as they interact and guide participants along the journey. A nurturing aspect in the nursery, an energetic enthusiasm in the schoolroom, sweet understanding of the memory of first love, stern recruitment into life’s battles, detached introduction into assessment of one’s self, compassionate gazes with a portrait of growing old, and gentle assistance with the collation of a life’s experience when considering the approach of death. These silent communications are performed with empathy and maturity, underlined with an awareness of safety for both performer and audience.

A maze of hessian fabric fills the space, the scent and texture immersing the audience in a time before standardised industrial production and technological wizardry. Each stage comes with a handmade cloth booklet including handwritten information about Elizabethan era concepts, expectations and customs, and encouraging self-reflection on the equivalent stages of our own lives. Wearing a headset with an mp3 player, a constant musical soundtrack creates its own dreamlike state, avoiding awkward silences between performer and participant, while navigating progress through a life. With simple props, evoking each of the senses to immerse us in each stage, yourseven creates a deeply personal connection and response for each participant.

An anteroom for quiet time and contemplation at the end is discreetly stocked with tissues for those overwhelmed by the challenge of repeated self-examination, while waiting for a parting gift of a personal photo album of Polaroid pictures. More than a sweet collection of intimate photographs, the participant takes away an appreciation for the important things in their own lives, and possibly a resolution to be a 'better' person and strive for the satisfaction of a life well-lived.

Berlyn is an innovator and strong advocate in the one-to-one performance genre. This demanding method of performance requires not only creativity and extensive preparation, but also instant response and awareness to each audience member’s understanding and emotional state. To have such young performers grasp the fundamentals of such a demanding form, and deliver such a multifaceted concept so well, is a credit to all involved.

Rating: 4 ½ stars

yourseven
By WA Youth Theatre Co & James Berlyn
Presented by Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts and WA Youth Theatre Company
Concept & Direction: James Berlyn
Assistant Director: Grace Chow
Lighting Designer: Chris Donnelly
Set Construction: Chris Donnelly & Matt Bairstow
Scenic Design: Jane Barwell
Music Consultation: Chris Van Tuinen
Sound Editing: Late Night Shopping
Stage Manager: Tegan Sorenson
Performed by Adam Kelly, Ayouk Mading, Bethany Robinson, David Ratcliff, David Stewart, Elizabeth Joseph, Grace Chow, Isabel Seton-Brown, Kasia Kelly, Laura Pitts, Lily Baitup, Olivia Mitchell, Ollie Charlton, Patch Kain Gunasekera, Scarlett Hayes and Thomas Tregonning-Barwell.

PICA Performance Space, Perth Cultural Centre
1-17 February 2018
Part of Fringe World 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.

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