The Trials

CYT-The-Jury-for-The-Trials-photo-by-Ben-Appleton-PhotoxFor those in the audience of a certain age, The Trials is uncomfortable viewing. Dawn King’s sobering imagining of a dystopian future in which the younger generation cull their elders in order to survive themselves has enjoyed great success overseas. This production by the Canberra Youth Theatre is its Australian premiere.

The play takes the form of a series of trials which are meant to take place over two weeks. A jury of twelve young people is tasked with having to decide the fates of older adults who have been called before it to justify their treatment of the planet in an effort to avoid compulsory euthanization.

 After listening to each defendant, the jury will then have to decide who, if any, will escape the death sentence.

The jurors are played by Edith Baggoley, Imogen Bigsby-Chamberlin, Genevieve Bradley, Alexi Clark Mitchell, Kat Dunkerley, Matthew Hogan,  Joshua James, Aadhya Karthik,  Sebastian Leigh, Tara Saxena, Phoebe Silberman and Jacqueline Tatam.

With the audience arranged on either side of the playing area, and the jury members at either end, the first three victims, played by Michael Sparks, Zsuzsi Soboslay and Elaine Noon, are ushered in by a mysterious faceless figure, one by one.

After each has presented their monologue they are dismissed without being questioned, and the jurors then argue the merits or otherwise of each victim’s case. However as the jurors begin to examine each victim’s arguments, their own individual motives and ethics come under question, and deep divisions begin to appear.

It’s a fascinating premise which the cast of young actors tackle with obvious commitment. The acting is variable, and while there has been significant improvement in efforts to project voices and slow down delivery, some otherwise good performances were spoiled by a tendency to shout dialogue rather than explore the effectiveness of a more nuanced delivery.

That said, this play is very much an ensemble play in which the twelve young actors are on stage for the entire presentation. It is presented without interval with the audience seated either side. There is nowhere to hide. That the entire cast was able to maintain concentration and character throughout was admirable.

Luke Rogers has produced a compelling production of an important play that raises many uncomfortable questions about humanity and survival.

The Trials
Courtyard Studio – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Wednesday 24 May 2023
Season continues to Sunday 28 May 2023

Image: The Jury for The Trials – photo by Ben Appleton | Photox

Review: Bill Stephens OAM