A timeless story of friendship, determination and shared grief


3 Aug 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

Hannah Cornelia, one of our 2023 Ambassadors, reviews Legacies presented by Ribix Productions at The Q Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre.

In the year 1868, amidst the vast expanse of the ocean, a story unfolds aboard the Arran ship under the command of Captain Watt, played by a dynamic Tom Cullen. To his amusement, he discovers the presence of six youthful stowaways, whose hearts are ignited with a fervent desire to live out the enchanting tales of seasoned mariners—ones filled with hidden fortunes, mythical mermaids, swashbuckling duels, and the enigmatic cuttlefish.

Since the prospect of returning the adventurous youngsters is no longer feasible, Captain Watt decrees the commencement of their maritime odyssey. Yet, the winter seas they traverse prove perilous, provisions run scarce, and the established crew members display a rather unwelcoming disposition (which Christopher Carroll, as Kerr, masterfully epitomises).  

As fate would have it, their vessel becomes ensnared amidst ice-laden domains, presenting the stowaways with an arduous quandary. Shall they persist aboard a ship where their presence is met with resistance, or shall they venture forth into uncharted frozen territories, braving the unknown? This decision indubitably tests their strength and unravels the true essence of their adventurous spirits, whilst also heartbreakingly acknowledging the tragedies endured. 

The production, whilst set centuries ago, presents a timeless story of friendship, determination and shared grief. The ‘legacies’ of these brave, young stowaways are to be remembered in an enduring and brilliant play. 

Due to the talent of the cast, I easily fell in love with the six little boys (ahem, pardon, “men”) as they inadvertently cling to each other for support, fun and survival. Hugh McGinnes (Tamara Brammall) is a lovable kid of endless energy, entranced with the idea of finding excitement away from home and his Ma. David Brand (Jack Mortan), convinces, with ardent ambitions of sailing, his best friend James Bryson (Tom Bryson – hilarious coincidence) to stow away with him and become men. As the elder two of the group, they provide reliable and brotherly support for the rest of the boys. Hugh McEwan (Phoebe Silberman), not to be confused with the other Hugh, dreams of a life filled with adventure, and he too, takes his best friend John Paul (Joshua James) with him to sea. Joshua and Phoebe have some of the most beautiful moments together, and I am personally amazed by their performances. Peter Currie (Zoe Ross), emboldened by her father’s stories of gargantuan cuttlefish (which through expert physical storytelling, I too had goosebumps), decides to hop aboard the Arran. 

Tied together by late-night stories, clandestine biscuit extraction operations, and firefighting, the six stowaways find comradeship and form a bond so strong that I believe not one single person didn’t shed a tear when tragedy struck. It felt like you were swaying side to side with them in the ship, as the waves rocked the boat in a steady rhythm. That cast chemistry was beyond impressive; both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. 

The direction of the show, with all its mesmerising physical elements, thanks to Hannah Pengilly the movement director, brought Legacies to life. Those sequences were well-oiled machines of storytelling. The set, credited to set designers Mel and Lachlan Davies, with its great wide sails and massive boat structure was beautiful and provided a myriad of unique images. In harmony with the immersive lighting design, thanks to Jacob Aquilina, I was blown away by the stage. Helen Wojtas brought the Scottish 1860s character with her wonderful costume design. And the music! That recurring theme song for Legacies, composed by Shannon Parnell, was solemn, suspenseful and hit all the right beats. 

And of course, Rachel Pengilly, with her sheer talent and drive, has written and directed this production. By mastering Scottish slang and wit, Rachel has created a theatrical snapshot back in time, so that Queanbeyan Theatre’s audience (and hopefully many more audiences to come) can witness the incredible story that unfolds. 

I will say, however, given that this is a theatre critique, that whilst the Scottish accents were all around sublime, there were a couple of hiccups. Additionally, the trial of Captain Watt and Kerr was slightly anti-climatic. I would have preferred more outrage, more hurt, and more creative staging choices during that moment. But I suppose there is a message in that: often the wrongdoers only receive a slap on the wrist whilst the wronged have to contend with the world’s indifference. 

Legacies made me cry, made me laugh, and made me glad I never boarded an 1868 ship bound for Canada. Congrats to the cast and crew, and I urge anyone and everyone to make the trek out to Queanbeyan (it’s really not that far) and witness the true and inspiring story of those six stowaways.

Hannah Cornelia is an avid lover of theatre and words. As an ambassador to Canberra Youth Theatre and The Q, she attempts to be as involved in the Canberra area drama scene as much as possible. But don’t be concerned! She has many other hobbies and passions, hoping to follow a career path in diplomacy when she leaves school. Last year Hannah performed in CYT’s Dags (Lynnette) and Canberra Repertory Theatre production of Sense and Sensibility (Margaret). This year, she assistant directed her school musical, The Little Mermaid. She also politely requests that you go see Legacies