Young in Trouble [by Matt Baker]
B4 25 Playmarket Award nominee Ben Wilson has been inspired by seeing “young people’s stories told honestly,” and while I don’t buy the authenticity of the issues addressed in his play, “I’ll Be Fine”, the pre quarter-life crisis generation is a terrifying truth to which I’ve been exposed. The film obsessed potential scriptwriter role in which Wilson has written himself, aside from being painfully common territory for young aspiring writers, is so meta-theatrical it almost collapses in on its own awareness.
A multi-character two-hander, Wilson and James Russell as Brian and Jude respectively, are immediately identifiable as the stereotypical lads of the road trip trope, but due to their combined lack of vocal articulation and basic stagecraft, the classic odd couple dynamic seems more accidental than earned, and while there is an obvious pace to Wilson’s dialogue, it can’t come at the expense of not being heard.
As a playwright, Wilson is not afraid to address weighted themes, but the script crashes into the issues, as opposed to darting in between them before eventually losing control. The play presents with an uncertain balance of who is in the driver’s seat as the faux emotional well upon which Wilson draws is relatively evenly dispersed between to the two characters, but doesn’t genuinely build to a natural climax or afford any catharsis, of which there could be much.
What is ultimately lacking is strong and clear direction from Ryan Knighton. Points of view and asking questions are ignored for the sake of an upended couch as a door and spot lit monologues; the focus is not on the script, but on the theatrical conventions the production employs. Yet even then, basic guidelines are ignored and puzzling choices are made; the first three rows of the audience share the stage light.
The opening night crowd was predominantly under 30 and much more the target audience, but even their engagement with the piece seemed subpar to how Wilson states he was affected by playwright Eli Kent four years ago, and while there is some poetic value in his script, it is not delved deep enough into to justify the defensibility of youth in age and practice. If this is truly an example of an honest story of New Zealand’s young people, they need more help.
I’ll Be Fine plays at The Basement until June 20. For details see The Basement.