Often reviews are mistaken for publicity- and for some they are. Some reviews are about word count- is it fair to confine a two hour experience to 350-600 words? Is this the stuff of dialogue? Is this how theatre moves forward- artists develop- audiences engage? Is arts commentary destined to be confined to pithy one line grabs spilling forth a profusion of overly embellished adjectives? This is not review in the sense that this is for marketing purposes- this is more of a reflection of “Bustown.” I have been busy with all things Brand Spanking New- and so though this appears after the season of Bustown- I hope to encourage any of you who saw it to offer a “remembering” of your own. Add your comments- what do you remember- what did you love, what did you learn, what did you marvel at?

Set in outskirts/ outback Lachlan Philpott’s play exists in a place where language, nature, words and ideas collide. As we enter ATYP Studio 1, bodies are scattered- some dangling on tyre swings, some sleeping, some collapsed- a world before waking- a hum of sound- spontaenous slow motion cacophany of dream-threads which poke out beyond the sighs of the sleeping.

Bustown- a town made from the scraps of buses- re-sued recycled- reinvented- A place in which the previously assumed to be mobile is stationary. The buses are homes- they are not started- and Sylvia Steering (Stefanie Smith) holds all the keys. This is a town of inertia- and the lives that exist there revolve around the possibility of the “driver” coming – as they wait for the driver- wait to signal the driver who will emanicpate them from the town. The alert is to be sounded by Axel (Peter Jamieson)- his responsibility to keep endless watch in the hope that he sees something.

There are plenty of facinating characters- Axel’s sister Cortina (Emily Morrison) is a bright and gutsy inventor- who is curious, strong and inspired. Cressida (Laura Turner) is a feisty young woman who yearns to escape the confines of Bustown- in defiance of her mother- and longs to understand the past. Corolla (Sarah Hansen) is a bright and curious child- who has known nothing different than the confines of Bustown- and her imaginary friend Coupe (Angela Sceats) is her delicate yet silent partner in mischief. Austin (Dean Mason) and Morris (Chris McInnes) are performers who have a lovable yet highly intuitive dog Leyland (Michael Cutrupi). A sharp tongued mother Capella (Heather Campbell). A silent young boy Cedric (Dashiell Hannoush). A robust older woman who speaks more than she should about “The Otherness” called Torana (Kate Goodfellow)- A collection of “Punkbirds” complete the ensemble in the role of chorus- (Joshua Longhurst, Max Rapley, Ellen Bailey, Sarah Bishop)- each character is rich and interesting and exists beyond the mere functionality of the story.

Amy Hardingham has lead an ensemble cast through Philpott’s multilayed and innovative script with a huge amount of humour, delicacy and inventivenes- which is beautifully complimented by lighting design by Alex Drummond, sound design by David Kirkpatrick and a spectacular set design by Tobhiyah Feller.

I am a fan of Youth Theatre… and I do not mean to make this distinction in a pejorative manner… in fact I think three pieces of performance which have been most exciting, innovative, fascinating and delicious have all been pieces which have been classified in the “youth theatre” category. And this is not a euphemism for dark heavy hitting theatre in education shows that urge young people away from experimenting with drugs and overcoming bullying at school- this is a category to indicate a specific dynamic. A dynamic which speaks to an audience on its own terms. Other spectacular pieces of this category of classification is Superperfect (Shopfront theatre) and Once and For All we’re Gonna Tell you Who we Are so Shut up and Listen (STC).

It must be acknowledged though- the definition of youth theatre does not exclude it from being relevent to the wider population- I have not been classified as youth for many years- and I absolutely loved the experience of watching Bustown unfold and reveal itself- its secrets, its truths, the yearning , the dreaming, the routines and the fears. And the ensemble handled Philpott’s poetic dynamic script with rigour and confidence- with a sense of ownership with a naturalism that lifts the stylisation of text and places it firmly in its own context.

For me, it was the heart of this piece which sounded loudest- the feel of yearning- of bravery of forging new ground of going above and beyond the known and the normalised- the urgency to live life and to passionately engage with that which is “the Otherness”- the call to not capitulate or accept what is but reach beyond into what could be.

Congratulations to ATYP , to the ensemble the crew, Amy Hardingham and Lachaln Philpott for going above and beyond- for being brave- because it was completely worth it.