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Impending Everyone

Photo by Tracey Schramm

Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) present, IMPENDING EVERYONE, by Michael Andrew Collins, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. until the 7th July.

IMPENDING EVERYONE, is a new Australian play, by Michael Andrew Collins. It is the inaugural winner of the ATYP Foundation Commission Award for actors aged between 14 and 18. After a ‘Pitching’ process to create a play for at least 10 actors, each Award winner is given two years to develop a script to be published and produced. Says, Fraser Corfield, the Artistic Director of ATYP:

The intention is to build a collection of plays that have been developed with the rigour and care we expect of a professional theatre, but selected by, developed with and performed by high-school aged actors.

Michael Andrew Collins the writer of IMPENDING EVERYONE, grew up in Western Australia, and in his personal youth theatre diet was engaged with work that, for the most part was ‘un-Australian’. Working on large cast works that had their origins from other countries and from other eras, and finding that telling one’s own stories were ‘the domain of workshops and improvisations – “devised”, not real, theatre.’ With this work opportunity, says Mr Collins:

The young people in this play are dealing with questions at the time when the question of who you really are and who you are going to become feels the most potent. Real young people today are dealing with these issues in real time. We are all trying to figure out what the Internet and social media are doing to us. If we owned up to everything then perhaps they could help make us more honest, open people. Or perhaps that would have the opposite effect.

IMPENDING EVERYONE, concerns a group of 10 high school students over Year 12, 11 and 10, at a school where someone has hacked the data of their emails and threatens to publish it. ‘I can see who you really are, and I promise, by the end of lunch tomorrow, you will know who everyone else is, too. This cannot be stopped. The truth is impending. Everyone will know you soon enough.’

Impending, threatening, menacing, ominous, and looming. This is a reality of today’s high school and school children.

When I was growing up, many decades ago, I really knew nothing about anyone else in my school class, and no-one knew anything about me. I went to school, worked in the classroom, ate lunch in the playground, haunted the library to avoid the cricket balls which were being hammered out from the cricket nets in the playground, and went home to do my homework and indulge in my secret acts/life, by myself. I had secrets, to be sure – you’ll never know. I suspect my fellow classmates had secrets too, but who cared, who wanted to know. No-one. Life evolved easily.

In my school reality the biggest secret came in my literature study, and it was that Mr Rochester had a ‘mad’ wife hidden in the attic – I felt alarmed for Jane Eyre. I remember the shocking ramifications for Lady Windermere in her social milieu when she lost her fan – what a movie! (on Television). Or, more spectacularly, of Dorian Gray’s secret in his attic. This is when I began to understand the power of secrets and access to them – it was mainly directed to bad ends.

Secrets in our family or friends lives remained, mostly, secret. These secrets are what created the fabric of the tensions of our everyday lives. We didn’t know what was the source of the tension. – it was a secret – no-one talked of it. Aunty Bernice, for some reason, did not care for Aunty Peggy. Those secrets made life complicated and interesting. Christmas lunches were fun to watch from the sidelines. It was like watching what Chekhov had set up in THREE SISTERS – a sparkling undertow, sub-text of secrets.

The generation of this new play, IMPENDING EVERYONE, are plagued by the threat of the publishing of accessible data relating to their secrets, and as they are part of a generational species that evolves, has evolved – oh, so slowly – and that they have secrets that they have been innocent or mindless enough to put on a hackable media site, they are panicked by the possible exposure consequences. They were simply, in practice, following the ‘herd’ to be ‘cool’.

The difference for this generation as compared to mine is that the Internet world has evolved quickly and has a capacity to cause havoc in the everyday schooldays of each student. One bad apple can threaten impending capacity, shame, guilt and the necessity to face up to the secrets in a spectacularly face-to-face way.

Obviously, since the evolution of our species is ever so slow, each of these students have done ‘wrong’ things to make their lives easier. They are, after all, only human. The revelation of these secrets on the internet will be ethically, morally, harmful. Shaming – OMG! Socially crippling!

And even worse, as we see in the play, the ‘animal’ behaviour of some of the young people as they scramble to protect themselves also reveals their immoral mode of behavioural choice when in ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ mode in protecting themselves from impending revelation. Not many of these young characters in this play are ‘good’ people.

IMPENDING EVERYONE, developed by these young actors with the writer over the past two years is revealing of the naivity and innocence of each of these ‘children’ and of their merciless abilities to cover themselves. In truth, behaviours have not basically changed. What has changed is the extensive reach of possible revelation of one’s secrets – truths – and the speed with which it can happen.

The actors: Rebecca Burchett, Alexandra Jensen, Adam Stepfner, Callum McManus, Sean Cartwright, Apsara Lindeman, Amal Dib, Sasha Rose, Curtis Green and Maryam Mulla, all give ‘classic’ school friendly performances – clear impersonations in each scene but without much sophisticated ‘back story’ motivation on show to give arresting believable dimension – and with very basic voice skills  that inhibits communication. Ms Lindeman, Burchett and Jensen have a natural ease in their work and Mr Cartwright a commitment of belief.

IMPENDING EVERYONE, is a play that exposes the world of the Internet generation as harsh and, sadly, mean. The object lesson of the play was a sense that the power we give these devices is not always controllable for our own good. Will our human reactions ever catchup with the evolution of the speedy information data banks?

Interesting, if not just a little too light weight. Comfortable, melodrama.