There is an average of 1507 things in the rooms of the 1200 young Australians that Barking Gecko profiled in their online platform The Generator Project, and it’s this number that playwright Suzie Miller and director John Sheedy have used as an entry point into the public and private lives of young Australians. These 1200 young Australians have opened up about who they are, what they do and who they want to become, and Miller has compiled all of that information into a piece that chronicles the statistics gleaned from this project, as well as telling some individual stories about these kids through monologues and dance, choreographed by Danielle Micich.
onefivezeroseven is the second installment in a trilogy about young people; the first play in the trilogy, Driving Into Walls, focused on teens in WA and was presented at the 2012 Perth Festival. The final piece in the trilogy will encompass a global perspective, as Sheedy and Miller will be finding out about teenagers from around the world. It’s an ambitious project and one that could serve to raise Barking Gecko’s profile internationally.
Part two of the teen trilogy is full of energy, colour and fun. The audience are ushered in while Jacinta Larcombe stands atop an amplifier into which is plugged a guitar played by Harrison Elliott in a gorilla mask. The floor is stark white and the stage is packed with the IKEA furniture you might find in any teenager’s room anywhere in Australia. There are various objects such as condoms, tampons and shoes lined up in neat formations on the floor. The light and bright set, designed by Sheedy, is carried over into the co-ordinating colors in the costumes designed by Alicia Clements.
Larcombe begins listing all of the things in her character’s room, while the other four cast members emerge from the wings and begin their choreographed movement around the set. This is the basic formula for the piece, with each cast member getting a list and/or a monologue to deliver while the others perform choreographed movement around them. There are group scenes, such as a wonderful hide-and-seek sequence, and a wicked little scene that mocks a certain politician, whose name I won’t give away. The cast climb all over and move every bit of furniture on stage so that not a single centimeter of stage space goes wasted.
The cast mostly have a dance background, which is apparent in some of the performers more than others, but because this is such a dance and movement-heavy piece, cataloguing more than dramatising, the varying levels of comfort with spoken interpretation didn’t matter as much. One of the best scenes was a monologue delivered by Larcombe that was accompanied by a very intimate duet from Toby Derrick and Harrison Elliott. Derrick also created a great little macho character who presents a list with a somewhat disturbing twist.
There are some really clever moments in onefivezeroseven, but I think the most charming thing about it is its exuberance and boundless energy and optimism. It really does feel like it comes from the mouths and the minds of young Australians, as opposed to the team of not-quite-as-young Australians who have put the work together, which I think is a really wonderful thing to achieve. For the most part, it avoids condescending overtones, or pandering to a particular age bracket. It’s a piece that could be enjoyed by teens as well as adults, and although it will probably become quickly dated, it’s a nicely-done snapshot of contemporary young Australia.