Driving Into Walls | Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Barking Gecko Theatre Company's latest show, Driving into Walls, should be compulsory viewing for anyone working or dealing with young people. Based on the interviews of over 500 West Australian youth aged 13 – 18, it is their stories and thoughts about life in the 21st century. Playing as part of the 2012 Perth International Arts Festival, Driving into Walls is hard hitting, thought provoking theatre at its best.
Director John Sheedy and playwright Suzie Miller have done an admirable job of condensing hundreds of stories and secrets into a cohesive, sixty minute piece. Consisting of a number of short, sharp scenes Driving into Walls is part contemporary dance, part multimedia visual, part straight play. Five young performers (Harrison Elliott, Michael Smith, Rikki Bremner, Thalia Livingstone and Mathew Tupper) successfully take on a number of different roles and characters representing the many young people Sheedy and Miller interviewed.
A few chairs and a perspex rectangular box big enough for the cast to fit in were the only set pieces on the wide stage of the Studio Underground Theatre. This gave the ensemble plenty of room to charge back and forth across the stage in energetic, edgy and frantic dance pieces. The five performers are all dancers by profession, many studying at WAAPA, and it shows in their tight, crisp and graceful movements. Danielle Micich's choreography is expressive and emotive, and the cast have no reservation in throwing themselves around with force.
Accompanying and complimenting the cast is an impressive sound design by Kingsley Reeve, a moving feast of lights designed by Matthew Marshall, and an electric, vibrant digital design by Sohan Hayes. These three men have taken the essence of youth and transformed it into a pulsing visual, sound and light display in some of the finest interconnected creative elements I've seen in theatre for a while.
I imagine there are elements of Driving into Walls that everyone can relate to regardless of age. The second scene about bullying, where names were being thrown around the stage with abandon, took me right back to early high school and made me feel very young, and not in a good way. There were moments where I could feel people in the audience squirming, so confronting were some of the scenes. Many times I found myself wondering if teenagers really think that, only to remember that not that long ago, I was that young and yes, I thought along those lines.
It was scene 12. "Stats", that had me choking back the tears, as the five performers churned out statistic after statistic about the youth of today. How many youth have had unprotected sex (about 30%), how many have lied to their parents (100%), how many people have tried drinking before the age of 13 (almost 100%). Some of the statistics were funny – apparently their favourite fast food is subway, but some of them are tragic; around a third have thought about suicide. It painted an overwhelmingly depressing view of the world through their eyes. These are the people who will, in ten years time as they tell us, be making the decisions, and they all feel like they've been betrayed by someone who they trusted. Not a great start is it?
Driving into Walls is raw theatre, emotive and confrontational. It has given me a new appreciation for the younger generation of today, and Barking Gecko should be congratulated for investing in this piece which is sure to raise eyebrows and get people talking. This is the best type of theatre, one that challenges, evokes, engages and makes you sit up and pay attention.
Barking Gecko Theatre Company
Driving Into Walls
by Suzie Miller
Directed by John Sheedy
Venue: Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: Feb 25 – March 3, 2012
Tickets: $39 – $15.50