Enthralling depiction of modern young adulthood


14 August 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.

Kathleen Dunkerley, one of our 2023 Ambassadors, reviews the Canberra Youth Theatre production of You Can’t Tell Anyone by Joanna Richards at The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre.


It’s been an awful, awful year, and Gwen just wants to host a party. One last party before her friend group disperses into the post-Year-12 realm of adulthood. The last chance they’ll have together to drink, play a game, and allow themselves to be teenagers. Never mind that everyone kind of hates each other, or that some of them think the room is haunted, or that the game they’re playing is designed to bring out the worst in people. As the night goes on, there is only one rule intact: you must tell the truth, and as the line between honesty and cruelty starts to blur, a friendly fire may just swallow the friend group whole.

Joanna Richard’s new play You Can’t Tell Anyone is a psychologically enthralling depiction of modern young adulthood, complete with dark comedy and commentary to boot. This play is a testament to the intelligence of young people, grabbing society by the shoulders and shaking until the questions that have long been ignored are answered.

The creatives all deserve nothing less than an everlasting bravo, including Caitlin Baker, the indefatigable director behind this dynamic marathon of a play. Credits to Kathleen Kershaw (Set & Costume Designer), Ethan Hamill (Lighting Designer), Patrick Haesler (Sound Designer & Composer), and Rhiley Winnett (Stage Manager), whose incredible backstage work paved the way for a harmonious composition of delectable onstage chaos.

The cast especially have stayed in the forefront of my mind, along with their characters, as both proved to be equally as memorable.

Gwen is a shell-shocked perfectionist and host to this tumultuous party, played by the glorious Ella Buckley, an actor who holds a harpist’s capacity to toy with heartstrings.

Tilly (Emily O’Mahony) is spiritually inclined, perpetually moody, ready to challenge others’ opinions, and thus the complete opposite to her sister, Gwen. O’Mahony’s characterisation is a skill she wields with an electric finish, keeping the audience enraptured at all times.

Jeremy is the non-confrontational and semi-treasonous boyfriend of Gwen, logic-driven in everything but love, played by Jake Robinson, who puts purpose behind everything he does on stage.

Kat is a riot in combat boots, an opinionated powerhouse of a character brought to life by the breath of fresh air that is Paris Scharkie. Scharkie is an immensely engaging performer, whose active manipulation of an audience’s attention is breathtakingly superb.

Willa (Jessi Gooding) is the resident bubble-gum humanitarian of the group and a poster child for pretty privilege. Superstitious, kind, and in tune with her emotions, Willa’s characterisation is plagued with an exquisite truth, Gooding’s performance proving admirable in all regards.

Benny (Lachlan Houen) is a bubble of pop culture, a drama king with an insatiable radar for secrets. Houen is a thrill to see in his element, with his performance ranging from heartbreakingly honest to unfathomably funny.

Nicole is the estranged friend to the group who has a subnormal relationship to the truth, played by Breanna Kelly, whose effortlessly nuanced comedic timing is fawn-worthy.

And Luke (Isaiah Prichard) is a bro’s bro, furnished with politically incorrect humour and arrogance-adjacent confidence. Prichard is a mastermind of nuanced expression and a total comedic detonator, and with this exceptionally standout performance, he is unequivocally an actor to watch out for.

Though in my adoration for much of this play, I do have a critique or two, as this is a theatre review. This play is one non-stop act, each part is more structured as a vignette rather than a scene, proving impressive, but also at times leaving the pacing with much to be desired. I will say that this isn’t the case for the vignettes centred around Luke and Kat’s individual revelations. Additionally, they don’t actually start playing the game until a third of the way through the show, which at points was peeving.

This show had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, either laughing or in shock. Either way, the energy of the space was magnetic, and I will definitely be going back to watch this for a second time. You Can’t Tell Anyone, in my opinion, has been a welcome addition to the Canberra Youth Theatre portfolio. Despite the play’s name, one should absolutely tell everyone about this production before it closes on August 20th.

Kathleen Dunkerley is an active participant in the theatre community around Canberra. Whether it be acting, directing, playwriting or reviewing, Kathleen has found theatre to be an unmatched creative outlet. Kathleen has found a welcoming community, along with plenty of rich and rewarding opportunities, with the many pathways Canberra Youth Theatre has to offer, including her ambassadorship. Earlier this year, Kathleen made her Canberra Youth Theatre performance debut as Ren in The Trials. She is also a member of the Daramalan Theatre Company. Outside of theatre, Kathleen spends her time unwisely: usually sleeping, bleeding her eardrums with the musical stylings of Jeff Buckley or Radiohead, or procrastinating any number of assignments – occasionally all three at the same time.