Review: Festival of Australian Youth Student Theatre

'a year with more tomorrow'...


The Festival of Australian Student Theatre (F.A.S.T) 2017 sure was “a year with more tomorrow”. How exciting, to see all the topics that are being covered by our future artists; such as body dysmorphia, abortion & women's rights, homophobia, love, fear, and our vulnerability as humans.  All of these young artists offered so much of themselves, you can see how  much each  individual artists invested  in to every part of their production … their lives, secrets, fears and hopes have been poured into each script, and their time and talents into their staging.

 I’ll be keen to see where Hold that Thought by Ashleigh Djokic and Mat Hsu ends up as a piece. Great and relevant topic, and Ashleigh has brought in multiple talents to create the space. Bella Abraham’s An Exploration of Sorts: Humans was a wonderfully brave piece, that no doubt influenced the audience to go out and be better, more vulnerable people.

Things We Tell our Younger Siblings from The Kevin Michael Project set a beautiful scene. Walking in to the theatre for this was reminiscent of walking into a Terrapin Puppet Theatre production, or one of the play readings at this year’s Ten Days on the Island Festival. Great stories and amazing voices – the owner of the pug in particular, has a strong and unique sound that already seems to be calling for a career in music.

The Carrier by Cassandra Ng tackles a complex and relevant topic, and I hope I get to see where the production ends up, ensuring that moral positions on each side of the coin are both well-represented. A Boy and a Monster by Glass Concordia set up a wonderful set, had great polished performances from the whole cast, and evoked most verbal expressions of sympathy I heard from an audience.

Disco Inferno by the Backbone Performance Ensemble set a great stage, and whilst I don’t know the Prometheus story myself, I found that their cleaning scene in particular was a wonderful display of patriarchy in modern times. Cardboard House by Katie Singleton was a wonderful piece of Dystopian Theatre that I would love to see in its next stage, even though it almost feels like a complete piece already. Aimee & Brooke were fantastic.

Where are the shining voices of tomorrow coming from? Turns out – from Logan. Get Breckt – or whatever the working title given to what came out on stage was, by The Fraction Ensemble was amaaaazing. So much talent has blossomed under the guidance of their obviously-adored mentor Claire, and the unity presented through so many diverse voices was an inspiration. Fraction Ensemble – you make me think about moving to Logan, to listen to your voices and work towards a better tomorrow.

The act I most wish I’d gotten to see, based on all the love I heard it getting after emerging from another performance? The Dawn till Dusk Project, by Kelvin Grove State College. Whatever these guys produced, it had the audience going crazy with appreciation, and made Artistic Director Lia Stark “bawl – in a good way”.

But If I had to make the same decisions and miss it again I would, because I was busy seeing the most polished and ready-to-tour show of my weekend – 7 for 1 by Digi Youth Arts. Was this a student theatre production, or was this a beacon for those that study - an example of what they can achieve? Everything I saw was amazing. Congratulations to Phi Sandy – what a debut as a playwright to be proud of! Emily Well's direction was bang on, and the entire cast's ability to contribute to the scene in character whilst not taking away from the story was surreal.  Multiple times I realised that the ensemble’s acting was creating effects that might otherwise need to be signaled through more obvious means, such as lighting or sound. I can’t wait to see the next Digi Youth Arts project and now the next Festival of Australian Student Theatre.

This wasn’t just a showcase of current works … this was a weekend in amongst the evolution of Australian Theatre. These are our next generation of artists, and their enthusiasm for, and openness, to feedback was wonderful to see. What was learnt and seen over the weekend will obviously influence our coming arts scene. And I’d be keen to see the event travel even further into the ‘Festival’ side of things, by developing all of the complimentary activities on the program.

Amanda Haworth’s workshop – You Do You - was fantastic, for example … Let’s see more of this around the festival! Workshops and drama sports that budding young artists who may be aspiring to present something at the Festival in a couple of years can get their teeth sunk in to – give ‘em the bug. Activities that the current year’s showcasing actors can participate in, debrief at and bond over. General interactive fun that other participants – perhaps those who have had to push their theatre practice to the side with all the distractions that ‘the real world’ can throw at you – can play around in.

More of that, and more gorgeous little ‘hidden-around-the-place’ pieces, such as Six States of Love, by Ng Sze Min. This was a wonderful 5 minutes on its own, but it’s also important for us to constantly see how much beauty can be experienced and shared in such a short amount of time … reminders like these can be just as effective as a half hour show, at times, and we need more throughout our lives.

The future of this festival really excites me … It’s showcasing, it’s workshopping, it’s development, it’s networking + conferencing, and it’s fun. Thanks so much Lia, Nicholas, Jade & team - see you next year!

By Tanya Green

Image by Ashleigh Djokic