Clever, cheeky and honest, ‘Suburbist’ is a new production by the Powerhouse Youth Theatre ensemble and directed by Kate Worsley. This refreshing production grapples with ideas of discrimination against a person based on where they reside. The format of the production – a play about making a play – spoke not only the everyday identity politics of Sydney, but the expectations of creatives making work in Western Sydney.
I was hooked from the opening scene as the cast performed the familiar gentle sway of traversing the suburbs by train. Dynamic choreography captured the movement of seats and people as they swung in the opposite direction and re-enacted the non-existence of personal space on peak hour commutes. All the while, audio captured various voices sharing their lived experience of suburbist attitudes.
The poignant moments soon followed – with a swift comment that Australian actors are more than just Home and Away, a reinterpretation of Cher’s Strong Enough had audiences in stitches and ideas for the production’s potential are explored. Laughter paused as the reality of the suffocating expectations of Western Sydney productions was brought to centre stage. One by one, the cast exit, frustrated that speaking to contemporary issues such as housing affordability, stories of migration and love were not deemed valuable contributions.
Suburbist and the Powerhouse Theatre Youth Ensemble demonstrate the power of the arts to facilitate necessary conversations about contemporary society. Developed in Fairfield (#madeinthewest) by young people residing in suburbs across south west Sydney and presented on the Australian Theatre for Young People’s stage in Walsh Bay. This production counters the assumption that touring is a process that takes inner city productions to Greater NSW stages, but that content developed in Greater NSW holds it’s own on the inner city stages.
The work of the PYT Ensemble continues to go from strength to strength. I hope that young people across Western Sydney are encouraged to see their shows. We cannot be what we cannot see. Members of the youth ensemble lead by example, reminding other emerging creatives not to confine themselves to geographical boundaries or to define themselves by the prejudice of others.