A Voice to the Youth of Today and Tomorrow


25 May 2023

We’re all about promoting the voice of youth and providing a platform for young people to share their experiences and develop their critical voice through our Ambassadors program. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Canberra Youth Theatre or its staff.

Photo: Ben Appleton | Photox – Canberra Photography Services

Disa Swifte, one of our 2023 Ambassadors, reviews The Trials by Dawn King at the Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre.

In a future not far from our own, children aged 12-17 are judge, jury and executioner to the older generations whose lifestyles and careers caused irreparable damage to our planet. Canberra Youth Theatre’s The Trials by Dawn King makes its audience eerily aware of the plastic drink bottles they hold in their hands as they sit with the grief and anger of teenagers who mourn their loved ones, their futures and the once vibrant Earth; all lost to the inaction and violence of today’s world.

Twelve of Canberra’s emerging actors deliver moving and compelling performances as the members of the jury. The seasoned actors who play the defendants deliver strong performances as they plead their characters’ cases. The impeccable directing of Luke Rogers (director) and Emily Austin (assistant director) and superb performances given by the actors ensure that The Trials is a show that will not be soon forgotten. 

The costume design was a group effort from the cast, director Luke Rogers and costume designer Helen Wojtas. By using colour blocking for the jurors’ costumes, they achieve the minimalistic style of a future with limited resources and decreased waste while communicating each character’s individuality through the colour coordination of their costumes. The tears and knots found in most of the juror’s costumes heightens the futuristic style and reflect the eco-conscious minds of the jurors who repair their clothes rather than replace them; in some cases, they communicate wealth and social standing. The costumes of the defendants resemble the fashion of artists to corporates in today’s world, enforcing that it is people from existing generations that are responsible for the climate crisis. The traverse staging allows the audience to feel further immersed in this new reality as they sit with the jury members who condemn the older generations, us, for our contribution to climate change.

The audience is never far from the stage, allowing them to both pop bubbles and see the tears in the eyes of the performers. The Trials’ striking yet simplistic set perfectly portrays the setting of the play while maintaining its simplicity, allowing the actors to engagingly navigate the space. The lighting design by Ethan Hamill punctuates moments in the play with precision. From the defendants’ pleas to the transportation to a world long gone, the lighting of The Trials was not lighting for lighting’s sake. Each lighting change guides its audience further into the world of the play, creating alluring atmospheres and defining moments. The sound design by Patrick Haesler seamlessly ties the show together as it accentuates and harmonises with the action of the play.

The Trials is an innovative play that tackles issues surrounding climate change in the most heartwarming and heartbreaking ways. It also has racial and genderqueer representation in its characters, actors and creative team. The Trials brings its audience to the edge of their seats before they sit back and have a good cry. The emotive and confronting performances accompanied by the beautiful and haunting sound design are what engrave this play in your mind for the rest of your life. The Trials is upfront and honest about the flaws in both our society and us as people. It is fitting that this is being performed in the nation’s capital during sitting week. This is a conversation that desperately needs to be amplified and I believe that Dawn King and Canberra Youth Theatre has done just that. The Trials has given a voice to the youth of today and tomorrow in the hopes that we will listen and respond. Will you?

Written by Dawn King

Director Luke Rogers

A Canberra Youth Theatre production and Australian Premiere

Disa Swifte is a Canberra based actor and theatre maker. Disa performed their first role as one of the Bacchae in Canberra Youth Theatre’s (CYT) Little Girls Alone in the Woods in 2021. In 2022, Disa performed as an ensemble member in CYT’s DAGS and was the Assistant Stage Manager for CYT’s The Initiation where they discovered their love for behind the scenes work. This year, Disa was accepted into CYT’s Emerge Company, filmed their first short film, Halo, with Sunspot Productions, is currently rehearsing their role as Sye in Sunny Production’s Happy Meals. Happy Kids, is co-directing Dickson College’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles and has worked on other small projects during this time.