Pains of Youth

Pains of Youth
By Ferdinand Bruckner in a new version by Martin Crimp. The Artisan Collective. Director: Ben Pfeiffer. The Malthouse Theatre (Vic). September 9 – 24, 2011.

This is a curious, intriguing, engaging and well produced work that ‘showcases’ a beautiful, spirited and talented group of young actors.

In a drawing room with an atmosphere of decadence and display, combinations of young, self serving individuals work through their intimate relationships and close friendships, play with their personal power and indulge their neuroses. 

Sexuality and desire are the driving forces. Extraordinary self interest and brutal manipulative ambivalence is explored. Characters, and therefore actors, are required to have the emotional capacity and skill to ‘turn on a pin’.

Strangely my overall sense is that something is missing. This could merely be ethical integrity in the characters. However I found myself craving a more theatrical and stylised expression of the protagonist’s objectives and intentions – a work with more striking contrast in colour and light. I was also, at times, bemused by the controlling nature of the use of sound. Pfeiffer describes the approach he takes in his director’s notes and it makes sense and is quite obviously fully embraced by the actors. But one cannot help wondering how expressive, over the top and liberating a Martin Crimp like staging could be. 

Despite my reservations about interpretation, this production is well worth seeing as an intelligent, stimulating and challenging engagement with a fascinating provocative work by very skilled and obviously ambitious practitioners who have the potential to thrive if supported.

I will be looking out for their next production with curiosity.

Suzanne Sandow

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