This Is Our Youth

Declan Dowling
29th Aug 2023

This Is Our Youth is bold. And those artists and creatives involved echo that in modest and earnestly labored calls across the Sydney theatre horizon. The promotional hype generated did not rally the masses, or instigate the talk many other emerging independent types claw for with stumpy, bloodied fingers against the featureless concrete surround making up the boundaries of the space which all who are passionate are trapped within. No claw marks will be left for us to reflect upon; “Look at how much blood they shed, for how little blood it was worth” will not be a thought entertained in our hyperbolic, analytical landscape - as every drop of blood shed was worth the price of admission, nobody will deny. However, none shall hasten to forget ‘This is Our Youth’, a quiet little triumph for a group of emerging theatre-makers who I am certain will soon be trumpeting their work in riotous marches across the pavilion of ‘who’s who’.

Jesse Donaldson-Jarrett is dangerous. Tracing his parabola across the sky one is blinded by how close he passes by the sun, but not so close as to melt the wax affixing the feathers to his cocksure, commanding shoulders. Upon entrances and exits the audience ripened with an unspoken applause, a silent energy like a thrilling wave upon us. However his sledgehammer approach to the opening of the 2nd act left a few bloodied noses, and from this we learned to avoid the girth of his swing — the less we see the more we see; don’t give it all to us so easily Mr Jarrett.

Kieran Gregory’s talent for light comedy whispers through the dense fog of his fumbling hands and perpetually fearful gaze. Which was, in moments, arresting – his eyes filled with a poetic dying light over the course of the play. Glimpses into his talent did rather charmingly and inescapably blossom, shrouded by his own awareness of his performance. These moments rung through in granulated form. And we did heartily lick the floor for these granules which were too tasty to ignore.

Bella Sattler, despite clearly never having smoked a cigarette in her life before attempting to in this production, rears her head and clutches her vulnerable underbelly in a performance underpinned by a masterful duality, bubbling away underneath her blood red lipstick and charming curls. Not a duality which speaks of deception, but one which speaks of vulnerability which is identifiable on a base level among all social creatures; the carnal and the personal against the social and the presentational. And never has an onstage prescience screamed its subtext ‘Who am I?’ in a more devastatingly lost shriek, without ever uttering a word to that effect. Her skill was so effortless that when I exhaled it felt more labored than the work she set before us. Sattler is the sparingly seen gem.

Longergans text' while charming, brilliant and undeniably intriguing, does go on and on - the 2nd act is ripe with self indulgent speeches - luckily for all in attendance these drawn out moments of textual density provided a pleasingly high platform for this ever enthusiastic band of emerging talent to crack their knuckles and scrape them raw and bloody against the washboard of expectation. And expectation was exceeded. Plot and circumstance are undeniably amusing and bear a mark of effortless cleverness from the playwright. But, Lonngergan being a good writer is very old news.

Director Noah Rayner’s touch is deft and subtle, his directional presence is almost invisible but carries an identifiable heightened naturalism that acts as a platform for the text to sing. This isn’t to say Rayner was absent, oh contraire - Pace, tempo, timing and measured spoonfuls of tension permeate this production like tendrils of coffee dancing in a glass of milk; full of energy, heat and flavor.

The gloriously intimate atmosphere however was offset by the show’s design - I do hope this group gathers their funds to invest in unifying the visual elements of the piece - controlled visual chaos would work marvelously in place of a setting that felt rushed and unintentionally chaotic. I’d much sooner see an empty stage filled with absolute necessity rather than an attempt to dress a set that felt as underdone as an IKEA meatball.

This is Our Youth was incredibly pleasing. The pavilion of ‘Who’s Who’ does indeed await these talented artists if this launching point is anything to measure them by. I eagerly await the reunion of this band of creatives and their next work - - with any luck an Australian play for their Australian audience.