Presented by True North Youth Theatre Ensemble & The Commissioner for Children and Young People
Reviewed 22 May 2019
Youth theatre, although always important, can often tend towards the twee, with young people having fairy tales or Disney adaptations forced upon them. This makes for comfortable viewing for parents, but limits the expression and exploration of the participants. Alirio Zavarce continues to push back against this trope, and should be lauded for that.
True North Youth Theatre Ensemble brings together young people who may be disenfranchised and/or have little access to an arts program at school. Many of them have dropped out of school, or truant regularly, and it is this life experience which is brought to the stage in Dropout.
Four ensembles are brought together for this production, with ages ranging from 8 to 20. Presenting stories from their own lives, or from those of people they know, there is a confronting authenticity to this work. Although devised and directed by Zavarce, the voices of the ensemble themselves are clear, and there is no sense of their mouthing words that have been given to them. This is work from the heart. Stories are intertwined with movement work, film, and music, keeping the pace fast and the energy high. Witnessing a performance which includes small children nervously stepping on a big stage, and young people with an obviously strong future in front of them, is simply an honour. Not one of these performers doesn’t stake a claim for themselves.
This is a heart-warming, often humorous, and thought-provoking hour in the theatre. The only issue is with audability: some very little voices, some excited young people talking too fast, and the occasional bit of music drowning out dialogue. Yet the message comes through loud and clear: the reasons that young people disconnect from school are complex and it is rarely an impulsive decision.
With film-making by Mitre Khammash, composition by Tyson Olson, lighting design by Brad Thomson and production design by Rachel Thompson, this is a slick but raw piece of work that deserves support.
Dropout is presented by the DreamBIG Children’s Festival.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 5: 4
Season: 22nd-27th May
Duration: 60 minutes