Directed by Tracy Bourne and Katie Cawthorne
Sound Design by Kimmo Vennonen
Presented by Canberra Youth Theatre
Ainslie Art Centre 17 – 19th August, 2017
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
The publicity for Canberra Youth Theatre’s “Poem Every Day” promised “an arresting new work shaped by the poetry of Canberra poet Joshua Bell, and drawing on the practices of Pina Bausch, Omar Naharin and Bertholt Brecht”. The reality turned out to be a puzzling and unappetising theatrical experience.
On arrival audience members were handed “Artistic Notes” cheerily announcing “Surprisingly, there is very little of the actual poetry of Joshua Bell throughout this piece”. Surprising indeed, especially as the audience was also provided with a booklet of 12 Joshua Bell poems, each named after a member of the cast, but which appeared to have little relevance to the events depicted in the performance.
Instead, according to the notes, the directors had responded to the ideas within the poetry, making comments about what it means to be truly yourself by utilizing one specific poem, “Don’t Hide Your Weirdness”, which, curiously, wasn’t included in the booklet.
The performance began with the assembled audience being ushered into the main auditorium which was stripped of seating. Crouched on the floor, in the centre of the performance space, a young woman slowly began to move her arms, before hurling herself around the floor.
A large bearded man in shorts entered, lay on the floor and the two gradually moved towards each other. He lay prone on his back on the floor while the young woman climbed all over his body, seemingly encouraging intimacy, and teasingly caressing his beard with her bare feet. The paedophilic implications of this scene were deeply unsettling, prompting questions as to the propriety of the director’s intentions in requiring their young cast to perform this demeaning scene, or indeed, others that followed.
Following the opening scene, the cast assembled on the stage to present a faux-Broadway interpretation of a song in which the only intelligible words were “Tuesday” and “Fuck”, the cast apparently competing to see who could outdo the other in how many times they could repeat the latter. Then they all dashed into separate areas around the room, where they continued shouting unintelligibly.At this point, around 20 minutes into the performance, this reviewer decided to embrace his own weirdness, flee the “Fucks”, and seek something more edifying to fill in the night.
So, after reading all the Joshua Bell’s poems in the booklet, discovering that none contained the word “Fuck”, or indeed threw any light on the content of the performance, and pondering what possible influences could be attributed to the practices of Bausch, Naharin or Brecht in “Poem Every Day”, can only question what outcome the creatives had hoped to achieve in squandering so much time and talent on such a misconceived work which served its cast and source inspirations so poorly.