Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Brave and heartfelt

21 January 2020

Surveying the ways in which young people are navigating the world today, WAYTCo’s ‘Body Rights’ is guaranteed to sell out, writes Jenny Scott.

Review: WA Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCo), ‘Body Rights’ ·
Girls School, 18 January 2020 ·
Reviewed by Jenny Scott ·

There’s no question that WA Youth Theatre Company’s REST was a highlight of last year’s Fringe World Festival, taking out three Fringe World awards, including the coveted Martin Sims Award for best new West Australian work (jointly with Yuck Circus). The same team that delivered REST has returned to Fringe World in 2020 with “Body Rights”, a program of four short, original works, directed by WAYTCo artistic director James Berlyn (with the exception of one directed by company member Phoebe Sullivan) and performed by members of WAYTCo, who range in age from 13 to 26 and are credited as co-creators of all works.

Two short plays, which form one half of the production, are hosted in the Cookery Room of the Girls School building. The first work, Will, delves into masculine bodily autonomy in the age of digital fame. The second, Boxed In (guest directed by Phoebe Sullivan), explores acts of strength and self-defence practised by young women living under threat in a patriarchal society.

Both of these loosely resolved, exploratory works feature engaging performances and inventive staging – such as a fitness class that morphs into a nightclub dance floor, or a group of boys illuminated only by their phone screens as their typed text is projected overhead. There are also a few particularly evocative moments of silence; candles slowly being extinguished, a woman pausing with her house key bared as a potential weapon.

Photo: David Cox

The other half of “Body Rights”, found in the nearby Art Room, includes two participatory works that blur the distinctions between the viewer and the viewed.

Audience members are invited to choose from the individual chairs dotted around the room to experience Adrian’s Soul, in which the performers unite and divide themselves to share personal space, moments of touch, and anecdotes of intimacy with strangers.

Designed to ensure that no one experiences the same show, this work depends on your willingness to engage with the prompts offered by the young performers – and commendably, whether they’re offering high fives or hand massages, the cast always ask for your consent.

In the following work ARCO, co-creator and solo performer Adam Kelly delivers a highly engaging and unflinchingly honest monologue about his personal experiences as a person with autism.

It’s a poignant standout performance from Kelly, who is supported by a “human lighting rig” of other performers along with the effective and stylish use of simple props (and the building itself).

Adam Kelly gives a standout performance in ‘ARCO’. Photo: David Cox.

These two deeply compelling works encourage both performers and audience members to cultivate an awareness of each other as people sharing the same public place.

Seen together, the four distinct works of “Body Rights” survey the ways in which politically engaged young people are physically navigating the world today. It’s a brave and heartfelt production, performed by a generous team of enthusiastic performers, which is guaranteed to sell out.

“Body Rights” runs until 2 February 2020.

Pictured top are members of WAYTCo performing ‘Boxed In”, guest directed by Phoebe Sullivan. Photo: David Cox.

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Author —
Jenny Scott

Jenny Scott received a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) from the University of Western Australia, and has spent the past ten years working and volunteering in the arts sector on Whadjuk Noongar boodja. She has fond memories of the dangerous thrill of the playground roundabout.

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