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.
Sarah Larkin wrote this review of our production of How To Vote! by Julian Larnach.
In a world of seemingly continual unrest, the political sphere is an increasingly difficult space to navigate, one that young people find challenging to insert themselves into. Canberra Youth Theatre’s production of the new Australian play, How To Vote! explores this relationship expertly, considering how young people find ways to engage and relate to politics. With the play acting as a political allegory, it places itself in the (very Canberra) realm of student politics. It mocks the seriousness that these young people carry themselves with, while mirroring the (at times problematic) personality traits of our politicians and journalists. In an election year, this production has a new weight to it, encouraging the audience to think more deeply about their involvement in politics. Whether it’s student politics or the global political stage, this production highlights how questions of power and justice seep into the everyday experience in an ever-recurring cycle. Passivity towards politics is not a choice one can now afford to be making.
A talented cast of young Canberran actors bring this message to life through their performance. How to Vote! follows Lizzie Somers, Giles O’Hagan and Monica DePuissant in their quest for student council presidential glory. Delivering on your typical expectations of leadership candidates, Caitlin Baker, Matt White and Ella Buckley are charismatic and completely gripping in their performances. They understood the nuances of each character, and delivered playwright Julian Larnach’s brilliant wit skilfully.
Though the play primarily centres on the respective journeys of the three candidates, Jack Shanahan’s portrayal of chaotically intense student journalist Figaro Lozarno guides this journey through the madness of election season. Supported by his social and sports editors (played by Thea Jade and Mischa Rippon respectively), Shanahan’s masterful performance is the perfect representation of the control media has in politics, guiding public perception.
The refreshingly simplistic and dynamic set design, allowed for the performances to shine. A special mention must go to the wonderful work of Video Designer, Ethan Hamill, whose work created interesting interactions between the audience and the performers. In using these videos as integrated projection, the production captured the essence of young people living in the technological age, highlighting it as a resource that society is increasingly dependent on. The sound design from Patrick Haesler was the perfect complement to this, delivering an indie-rock sound that transported audiences to a teenage sit-com. This young and jubilant energy kept the frighteningly realistic material more light hearted, while still allowing for its impact.
As a young person trying to figure out how I fit in to the world of politics, who also happens to be a university student, I found myself relating to this production more than I’d care to admit. Young people are ever distrusting of political voices, as they have continually proven time and time again that our leaders do not care about our opinions, they follow their own agendas. These characters are representative of that. How to Vote! doesn’t necessarily give hope for the future of politics, but rather addresses its current faults and dangers, calling desperately for change. It is a powerful display of activism that needs to be seen.
Sarah Larkin is a fourth year student at the Australian National University, studying a Bachelor of Arts/Development Studies. She is a passionate young performer who is fascinated by theatre in all forms. Sarah is widely involved in the ANU’s theatre scene, performing onstage and working behind the scenes various productions. She is the current Vice President (Events) of the ANU Shakespeare Society.