Playwright Sarah Kane has left behind a small and notoriously difficult repertoire of works, but WAYTCo haven’t let that stop them from producing her challenging, fragmented Crave. In many ways it’s an ideal piece for youth theatre as its point of view seems to emerge from that time of life when young people traverse into the confusing psychological and emotional territory that lies just beyond the boundary of childhood. And yet, in execution, it takes a very attuned and mature set of theatre makers to pull it off.
Crave sees four actors in chorus rattling off lines about love, incest, drug use, suicide and any number of other subjects worthy of a trigger warning. It faces these subjects head on and with little circumstantial context. There is no discernable narrative structure to the piece, and even the four voices we hear over the 45 minutes of overlapping monologue are nebulous at best. They interact with each other very minimally, seem lost in their own heads, preferring to converse with the universe rather than connect with the person or people next to them.
This lack of structure is daunting at first, as we keep expecting a change or shift that would make these four actors break the four fourth walls between us and them, but it never comes. The sooner we shed our expectations the better, as we can then begin to enjoy the piece’s unique framework and the four actors’ intricate performances. The sooner we forgive the writer and director (here, Artistic Director Renato Fabretti) for not putting everything on a silver platter for us, the better.
The cast has been split in two to better accommodate WAYTCo’s lengthy roster of talent. Opening night (the night I attended) was performed by cast 2, which was comprised of Megan Hollier, Luke Binetti, Ally Harris and George Ashforth; cast 1 consists of Declan Brown, Odne Stenseth, Ally Harris and Daisy Coyle. The actors file onstage and stand side-by-side on a raised platform in front of four suspended pillars, one of which is slightly skewed. The only shift in the stage environment comes through lighting changes (Dylan Dorotich-O’Keefe). The performers stand in place for the length of the piece, with minimal gestures, and an occasional head turn or slight pivoting.
This puts the focus squarely on their expressions and the words coming out of their mouths. There is very little room for actor ticks or messing about with unmotivated movement and reactions; the actors must and do speak as truthfully as they can. They must listen to each other intently, can’t let their guard down for a second, can’t let their minds wander too far or they’ll derail the whole thing. They must stay as focused as a string quartet, though they don’t have the benefit of having their parts in front of them as they play. The score is all stored in their heads, with a little bit of accompaniment from a subdued electric guitar just offstage for added ambience.
The piece is as sonic as it is expressive, with emphasis often on both the sound and the meaning of the words the performers are speaking. There are staccato and legato moments, crescendos and decrescendos, and when the content gets too uncomfortable, the listener may choose to shift focus to the sounds, and vice versa.
Crave is an unusual sort of theatre piece, tough to perform and not immediately accessible, but WAYTCo have taken the challenge head on and acquitted themselves admirably.
WA Youth Theatre Company presents
by Sarah Kane
Directed by Renato Fabretti
Venue: State Theatre Centre, Perth WA
Dates: 2 – 11 June 2016