Canberra Youth Theatre is returning to the stage in a big way with Katie Pollock’s provocative and critically acclaimed Australian play, Normal in The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre from 22 – 24 October 2020.
Poppy has developed a tic. A twitch. A spasm. It spreads through her body, then her group of school friends and before long, the whole town. Nobody can explain it, but as the ‘disease’ spreads, the community begins to fall apart. Who or what is to blame? And how are they going to fix it?
Normal is an urban detective story in which the investigator is a teenage girl and the body is her own. Written by Katie Pollock and inspired by the true story of ‘the town that caught Tourette’s’, the play raises questions about what it means to fit in, the viral nature of mass hysteria, and the pressures on young women fighting for agency.
Starring a cast of emerging Canberra actors, the show is the first to be programmed and directed by Artistic Director Luke Rogers and celebrates the company’s renewed focus on contemporary Australian plays that place the experiences of young people at their core.
“This is an intriguing and complex work that will resonate with young people who may feel like they don’t have control over their own paths, are under pressure by societal demands, or simply struggling to find their place in the world” says Luke Rogers.
“It’s a beautiful allegory on disenfranchisement, acceptance and fitting in. This is a gripping work that explores acceptance and ostracism amongst teenagers navigating the pressures to conform and succeed, the social hierarchies of school, family breakdowns, and the viral nature of peer influence. We are thrilled to be bringing this acclaimed Australian drama to the Playhouse.”
Normal is an affecting and emotional play that examines the tenuous ties that bind a society together until self preservation rips those bonds apart. Rogers programmed the play in 2019 when the idea of a pandemic was just that – an idea, but the eerie relevance of the play is not lost on the cast and crew.
“It’s not just that the play is about viral transmission” says actor McKenzie Battye-Smith.“The play deals with so many of the social anxieties that coronavirus has activated in our communities – fear, vilification, and the othering of those who are seen as a threat.”
Theatre has also been a precious safe haven for young people living through a traumatic year. Playwright Katie Pollock knows this all too well. “Doing youth theatre pretty much saved me when I was a teenager so it’s especially meaningful to have Canberra Youth Theatre bring the play to life now,” She said.
“Of course I had no idea when I wrote the play that the idea of things going viral would be quite so relevant right now. It really does speak to how connected we all are, and how much we rely on each other as we move through the world.”
“With this play I wanted to create strong roles for young women to perform, so I love that the cast now has the opportunity to explore these characters under Luke Rogers’ expert direction,” said Pollock.
Since joining the company in early 2019, Rogers has expanded the company’s programs for emerging professional artists. The cast of Normal, McKenzie Battye-Smith, Jemma Collins, Holly Ross and Elektra Spencer, are all local artists, aged 19-25, on the cusp of breaking into the industry.
Complex, empowering roles like these don’t come along often for young women, and the entire cast is embracing the challenge. All four actors express a relish at the opportunity to perform a work that examines the creeping loss of youth agency and the way that societal pressures can impose themselves upon the bodies of the young women.
With this production, Canberra Youth Theatre continues to challenge audiences expectations of what youth theatre is capable of.
Director: Luke Rogers Featuring: McKenzie Battye-Smith, Jemma Collins, Holly Ross, Elektra Spencer Set & Lighting Design: Gillian Schwab Sound Design: Kimmo Vennonen
The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Season: 22 – 24 October 2020
For more information, visit: www.canberrayouththeatre.com.au for details.
Image: Normal – image by Lightbulb Studio