Boomers go on trial for climate crimes
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Boomers go on trial for climate crimes

Aug 14, 2023

Theatre / "The Trials", Canberra Youth Theatre. At The Courtyard Theatre, until May 28. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

DAWN King's play "The Trials" opens with a figure, standing in overalls, a hood over their head, filming a man on trial for "climate crimes".

On a stifling hot day, 12 young people, the jury, are shut in a room to decide the fate of "Boomers". Opening the windows for air is not a viable option.

The defendants are forced to deliver a "Mea Culpa" monologue defending and explaining their life, carbon footprint, and redemptive actions, before being relegated to a chamber to await their fate, to be made in a mere 15 minutes by the jury.

The factors meant to determine the jury's decision are overshadowed by personal experience, emotions and seemingly steadfast convictions so that when even the childless, train-catching, low-income earning, vegan writer (Zsuzsi Soboslay, who regularly referred to a notebook for prompts during her trial) seems destined for a "guilty" verdict, it appears that anyone else doesn't even stand a chance. Faith in governments or authorities has proven futile. And any positive legacy that may have been fought for or forged by the adults does not get a mention.

Most of the jury has been personally affected by climate events or previous trials and have decided upon their stance before the "dinos", as they are rudely referred to by the jurors, even give their evidence.

The young cast delivers a commanding performance. The unappealingly aggressive and bossy Gabi (Genevieve Bradley) clashes with Maaya (Tara Saxena), who earnestly tries to reason with the group to give balanced and fair consideration to the evidence of the defendants. Noah (Joshua James) is angry over his personal loss and swears at anything and everything.

Tomaz (Matthew Hogan) is an exasperated, "typical" teen, focused on his next meal and yet surprisingly leads the imaginary sequences that punctuate the show, to allow the youngest jury member, Zoe (Jacqueline Tatam who conveys innocence and elicits empathy) to experience things she's only heard of, such as snow.

Kids who want to focus on how they appear on the livestream, or make out with fellow jurors are relentlessly forced to make life or death decisions. The jury's stress and ideological clashes shockingly escalate and when the situation becomes personal, beliefs are challenged, loyalties tested and a horrendous conclusion looms.

The kids in "The Trials" will seemingly never travel, never have children and never eat bacon, and will live in relative poverty. Could this be a reality in the near future? The terrifying thing is that "The Trials" barely even seems dystopian.

Director Luke Rogers says: "The artists of our nation's capital have a unique responsibility to reflect the political moment". But should they? "The Trials" reminds us that these are just kids and most of them don't want this responsibility, in front of mind and dealing with things on this scale.

The theatre is designed to have the audience seated on both sides of the stage, as to be right in the action, with little capacity to shy away from the intensity of the action. Subtle patterns on the costumes tie the jury together. Ironically, the props include disposable cups and lunch trays.

This engaging and thought-provoking play was delivered powerfully by the cast who maintained an even pace, energy and conviction. The adults are commanding and convincingly portrayed in both demeanour and costuming.

This brutal depiction of the loss of innocence of children and a likely scenario of the state of the climate crisis and the decisions made in this play by the jury left the audience visibly shaken.

A language warning needs including for this play that confrontingly confirms that: "The sins of the father WILL be visited upon the children".

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Ian Meikle, editor

SAMARA PURNELL DAWN King's play "The Trials" opens with a figure, standing in overalls, a hood over their head, filming a man on trial for "climate crimes".