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VX 18504

VX18504 Directed by Meryl Tankard, presented by Australian theatre for young people (atyp) and Carriageworks.

ATYP in its vision statement sets out “To be the leading Australian youth theatre, inspiring and nurturing imagination, confidence and creativity in young people across the country.” In pursuing that endeavour Tim Jones has invited Meryl Tankard to work with a group of young people on VX 18504 and for Ms Tankard it is a re-visit to a work she created some time ago. It was an opportunity to re-imagine VX 18504 through the experiences of young people.

VX 18504 was the army service number of Meryl Tankard’s father. The performance examined the theme of conflict in society from the schoolyard to the battlefields of war. Ms Tankard worked with the group of young artists over 8 weeks.

The first half was a recreated memory of school day conflicts both at home and in the school yard. The family holidays and day to day life were beautifully captured in amusingly posed tableaux-snap shots. The sense of detail and life in the images were moving and captured nostalgic memories for the audience who responded with laughter of recognition. The subsequent episodes were the familiar “horrors” of schoolyard and teenage angst in growing up. There were moments of material here that needed to be trimmed as the point was often clear long before the performers moved on. The skills of the company were taxed as they not only were asked to physicalise but also speak. The Voice work was not as polished as the movement and was sometimes a handicap. The sense of the spoken text lost in empty line recitation. No sense of objective or ownership of meaning.

The second half was movement based and here the piece really found its level. Working within the skills of the individuals and the collective,the choreography captured images and narrative simply and communicatively. It was a work out for all concerned. In one beautiful sequence the images of the war photographer Hurley were re-enacted and were a tender and poignant balance to the first half “family shots”.

The production values Set (Meryl Tankard and Regis Lansac), the Costumes (Meryl Tankard and Gabrielle Logan),and Lighting Design (Verity Hampson) were beautiful in the support to the action. The Lighting was detailed and atmospheric. (The sound score was mostly celtic not attributed.)

Clearly the young artists were inspired by the collaboration they had with Ms Tankard and the Designers. Their passionate enthusiasm was matched with wonderful concentration and commitment and a sense of pride about what they had achieved. It is a wonderful thing when one witnesses an Artist of such a Calibre (some have said Genius) as Ms Tankard, finding the time and making such an obviously happy collaboration with young artists. It ought to give them high aspirations for their future work. Both atyp and Meryl Tankard should be congratulated for the harnessing of each others vision. I had a perfectly happy afternoon and I could see the Young Artists fully stretched and content.