Games in the Backyard | Australian Theatre for Young People

Photo – Johnny Diaz Nicolaidis

An Israeli play based on the true story of a gang rape perpetrated by a group of teenage boys on a teenage girl is difficult material in the most experienced of hands.

The choice to tackle such a dark subject by the Australian Theatre for Young People could be considered brave or foolish. Either way, the performances by the young ensemble cast were courageous and confronting if a little uneven at times.

The action takes place between the playground and the courtroom as the five actors play dual roles as teenagers and lawyers. Not surprisingly, the younger roles are more convincing. The actors made the most of the challenging characters particularly newcomer Jessica Palyga who was outstanding as the 14-year-old Devori showing an exuberance for life and an innocence and vulnerability that was heartbrteaking. Dorje Swallow as the manipulative Asaf brought a clinical and unnerving charm to his ringleader role, setting up the games that were designed to blur moral lines and entice Devori who was desperate for attention. They were well supported by the rest of the gang in Michael Rebetzke, Joseph Del Re and Carl Batchelor with director Netta Yashchin making the most of her young cast and the studio’s industrial setting, which set the audience uncomfortably close to the action.

My disappointment was with the material. It is an award winning play by acclaimed playwright Edna Mazya, written in 1993, translated by Hani Furstenberg and Naom Shmuel. Perhaps it has not stood up well to the passage of time. Many similar crimes have been committed in this country over the past decade. I could not find any new perspectives on why a group of human beings might resort to such violence and degradation on the grounds of provocation. The message for women is that after you have been abused and humiliated by your attackers, then you are abused and humiliated by the legal system. This is not a new concept and the idea that nothing much has changed in the way we deal with sexual assaults is utterly depressing. Instead, it raises age old propositions: If a girl flirts, wears inappropriate clothing, brags about her exploits or, God forbid, dances in a provocative way, she is asking for it. The promotional notes claim the play will have you questioning your judgement about a case that is not black and white. But the truth was stark. She was a child and they raped her.

Netta Yashchin and atyp Under the Wharf present
Games In The Backyard
by Edna Mazyaa | translated by Hani Furstenberg and Naom Shmuel

Director Netta Yashchin

Venue: Studio 1, The Wharf, Walsh Bay
Dates: 17 November – 3 December 2011
Tickets: $30 – $21

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