The State Theatre Company’s State Education program offers young audiences the opportunity to explore their own thoughts about the world through theatre and this year the conduit is Vivienne Walshe’s intense and gritty play This is Where We Live.
Pitched at senior school students, the play is about two teenagers caught between the savage world of the school playground and the war zones at home who form an intense connection which offers each a glimmer of hope in their small-town hell.
Chloe is a product of neglect and abuse which has left her with a dark and vicious self-protective shell. As she struggles to cope with the pressures of a new school and a hostile home life, she meets “odd-boy” Chris, the painfully unpopular son of her new English teacher, who also happens to be a bully.
The reclusive pair forms an unlikely romantic connection, finding solace in one another and sharing dreams of a better future against the backdrop of their bleak realities.
The synopsis might sound clichéd, but the production is refreshing, with director Jon Halpin using some quirky improvisation around the script to great effect.
The play takes place in and around a replica of a damaged stormwater pipe created by set designer Morag Cook. With the added drama from lighting designer Rob Scott, the exposed steel mesh and concrete fragments produce a familiar but haunting setting.
Walshe’s language is harsh and poetic in style, but her meaning is deeply emotive. Adelaide actors Matilda Bailey (The Seagull, Vere) and James Smith (Neighbourhood Watch, Othello) keep the audience in the grip of the narrative with their energetic and passionate delivery for the full 60-minute production.
This is Where We Live is a powerful and often uncomfortable play that reminds adult audience members how it really felt to be a teenager. It is also a bittersweet reminder of the pain and disadvantage that lives in the hearts and homes of many teenagers. Yet the play is also about hope, joy and the triumph of the human spirit.
This is Where We Live, presented by the State Theatre Company and HotHouse Theatre, is playing at the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until May 16 before travelling to outer metropolitan venues and regional centres.
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