Marathon of Comedy, Deftly Delivered


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. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of Canberra Youth Theatre or its staff.

Caitlin Baker as Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Sommers, and Matt White as Giles O’Hagan in Canberra Youth Theatre’s How To Vote! by Julian Larnach (Photo credit: Dayna Ransley)

Madeleine Smith wrote this review of our production of How To Vote! by Julian Larnach.

No one is safe from the searing satire that is the engine of How To Vote!. Tackling such issues as gender politics, corruption and the dramas of self-actualisation in university, dressed in fabulous monochrome pantsuits and set to an infectious original score, How To Vote! is many things — uproarious, self-aware, whip-smart — but it is certainly not shy. 

It’s unbelievably refreshing to see a show about young people being performed and produced by young people. This show boasts an absolute powerhouse cast and crew of university-age people, displaying unwavering confidence and capability at every turn. Every performance was an absolute delight to experience — Caitlin Baker shines as the breathlessly eager Lizzie, full of hope and determination; Joanna Richards’ more-than-slightly unhinged, embittered and terrifying Tash absolutely dominates every scene she’s in; newcomer Matt White is almost unbearably charming as the problematic frat-boy, Giles; and Jack Shanahan has the most fun out of the whole cast as the impish student journalist Figaro, who is one moustache-twirl away from completely transforming into a fiendish film-noir villain in all the right ways. 

Only in the hands of these excellent performers could this absolute marathon of comedy have been delivered so deftly. With How To Vote!, writer Julian Larnach manages something that numerous films and television shows have failed to do countless times — write dialogue for young people that actually sounds like how they speak. Not afraid to reach for hyper-specific cultural references, dick jokes to make your mother blush, or some good old-fashioned slapstick, the audience are left with barely a moment to catch their breaths before the next joke lands. 

Behind the side-splitting comedy, How To Vote! makes a very important point. As much as we might laugh at ourselves, whether it’s because we are currently in university or can recognise past peers in these characters, students always have and always will take themselves completely seriously. How To Vote! examines the hilarity of that fact with elegance and wit, without ever turning its characters or its narrative into a joke in and of themselves. By the end of the play the audience is completely invested in this fictional StuPol campaign, and actively rooting for a winner, and the whole time we are reminded time and time again that what is happening here is happening out there as well. The ambition, the corruption, the spin and stratagem, while hilarious and outlandish in this satirisation, are mere precursors of what lies ahead for these students. 

From the fictional students being portrayed to the real ones performing and producing this fantastic show, the biggest takeaway for the audience is this: students are an absolute force to be reckoned with. They are living in their futures simultaneously with their present, and they outnumber you. 

Madeleine Smith is a Canberra native currently in her fifth year at the Australian National University, completing her double degree in Arts/Law. She appeared in the ANU Shakespeare Society’s production of The Tempest as Miranda in 2021, and most recently directed the Shakespeare Society’s production of The Tragedy of Coriolanus.