Saturday, October 6, 2018


Photo by Asparay Photographics

New Ghosts Theatre Company in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre co-present, YEN, by Anna Jordan, in the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), at the Kings Cross Hotel. 27th September - 13 October.

YEN, is an English play by Anna Jordan. It won the Bruntwood Prize in 2013.

YEN, is a bleak and yet compassionate sociological exposition of two boys, 14 year old Bobbie (Jeremi Campese) suffering from severe ADHD and his 16 year old brother, Hench (Ryan Hodson), stunted in his emotional maturity, living with Taliban, their dog, in a squalid flat in a local Council Estate, having been deserted by their their twice widowed Mother, Maggie (Hayley Pearl), who has found another man, Alan, to live with - both these adults, addicts and alcoholics. They are visited by a neighbour, 16 year old Jenny (Meg Clarke), who has concern for the dog. Jenny lives on the Estate as well but in slightly better circumstances. Jenny is the author's dramaturgical 'circuit breaker' and is the catalyst for the events of the play.

In this society which is adopting and advancing, at phenomenal speed, the technological algorithms of AI that will possibly replace the working poor, Ms Jordan, in YEN, poses, underlines, the present gathering catastrophe of whole sections of our community that will become no longer just exploited but rather irrelevant. Already, there is a mental unbalance in some of our community who find respite in addictive behaviours as a mechanism to deal with their declining opportunities even if it was one that was essentially exploitative, as does our mother figure, Maggie. Bobbie is already in biological damage, from the start, probably, from foetal alcohol syndrome and has the stench of a 'doom' about him, while Hench is underdeveloped and paralysed in a physical and cognitive state where his social education has come from screenings of porn and Play Station and a lack of parental role modelling - his hormonal needs have had no-one to teach him even how to touch another, let alone love another. Says Jenny without irony, underling the tragedy of this play: "Family's important, don't you think?"

Substitute the British terminology of Council Estate for the Australian term of Public Housing and the relevance of this play will strike you as firmly as a stroll into parts of Waterloo or Surry Hills, will, could.

This production of YEN, Directed by Lucy Clements, set in a putrid apartment environment of convincing power by Designer, Ester Karuso-Thurn (it almost smells), is assisted by the Lighting of Louise Mason to create an outdoor space as well, with the aural cluing by Sound Designer, Chrysoulla Markoulli, has powerfully convincing performances.

Hayley Pearl creates a convincing arc of a narcissistic sociopath wallowing in the amnesiac deflections of drug abuse as Maggie, disgusting us with the reckless indulgence, and confusing us with the self-pitying knowledge that she has in a sober state, evoking from us a sense of empathy - reluctant though it might be in giving, seeing the havoc that she is wreaking on herself and her children. Meg Clarke creates for Jenny a courageous but naive innocent of warmth, confusion and disillusionment. Jeremy Campese is frightening in the absorbed possession he evokes on stage as the hyperactive Bobbie, with sharp and keenly observed symptoms even when comatosed in a medical-drug calm in later scenes. The contrasting tension between his loyal, loving nature and the demon force for destruction within him is palpable and distressing. The journey of Ms Jordan's narrative takes us, turn and turn about, into places of excruciating, aching tenderness to frightening palpable violence (mostly off-stage). The keel, the spine of this work is created with a phenomenally sensitive and sustained performance from Ryan Hodson as the bewildered adolescent, Hench. The complexity of his fragility and his sobbing ache to understand his predicament is worth observing - it is a beautifully conceived performance of an underprivileged helplessness that has no moral compass to guide him - except, perhaps in a sentimental gesture of hope from the author, in a wordless near ending scene.

Is it enough for Ms Jordan to present these sociological realities and give us no inkling of the action I should make to prevent it? To do something about it? Is it enough for me to feel that I have touched a world that moves me and given me a sensibility, a knowledge, with a glimmer of a distant hope - and sigh, with relief, 'there but for the grace of god, go I?' Is it Ms Jordan's subtle dramaturgy to have our two young men introduced to us watching porn and playing with a Play Station, for me to extrapolate that I am watching Poverty Porn whilst I am at play in the Station: Theatre? In a good mood I could feel hopeful about Bobbie, Jenny and Hench. In a bad mood I good feel despair and a fear of the ultimate destruction of Bobbie, Jenny and Hench. Is watching this play enough for me to have done to assuage my conscience from a sense of responsibility? Should I do something? What should, can, I do? Should I make a donation to a relevant charity? What, Ms Jordan, do you think I should do with this cultural provocation?

YEN, an experience that will concern you about your own societal relevance. Or, more worryingly, your children's and their children's future relevance. Few of us have the time to investigate our world because we are barely keeping up with our own surviving strategies in a biotech world that just seems to be going faster and faster. Unfortunately, history waits for no man and you and they - your children - will not be exempt of the consequences.

So, see YEN, and join in the cogitation.

N.B. In the program notes, The Artistic Director and Founding member of New Ghosts Theatre Company, Lucy Clements, declares: 
New Ghosts Theatre Company is first and foremost a playwright's company ..."
This declaration seems to be at odds with the actual glamorous program, for, there is NO biographical information given about the playwright. So, maybe the New Ghosts Theatre Company is not first and foremost a playwright's company. Everybody BUT the playwright is presented in the program. 
It is, a bug-bear of mine, as you all know. The Sydney Theatre scene can be so neglectful of their playwrights - the source of their inspired efforts!

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