Alberta Theatre Project’s THE CIRCLE got its world premiere in Calgary on October 23rd, and it tells the story about a group of troubled local teens who are struggling to find their identities, purpose and a sense of community.
The show is written by Calgarian Geoffrey Simon Brown, who also stars as one of the troubled youth. The play promises to examine the struggles faced by today’s adolescents, growing up in an often confusing and devastating world and feeling detached from society as a whole. We watch as they get drunk and high and do whatever they can to numb themselves from the realities of their day to day lives.
The Circle opens with a bit of dark foreshadowing that leads the audience to believe the events that unfold will come to a tragic conclusion, and then we are taken down the rabbit hole as we get to know the characters and their particular struggles. Ily (Joe Perry) is living in his girflriend Amanda’s (Elisa Benzer) mother’s garage. He’s your typical lazy ‘stoner’, 18, loosely employed, proud of his drug paraphernalia and seemingly oblivious to the fact that he has become a leech on his significant other.
Ily gets a call from his childhood friend Tyler (Geoffrey Simon Brown) and proceeds to invite him and his new girlfriend Kitt (Leanne Govier) over to hang out. Amanda has already invited her friend Will (Daniel Fong) and his new boyfriend Daniel (Brett Dahl) and is upset because she doesn’t want a rowdy party and has reservations about Tyler’s behaviour and past.
What ensues is almost ninety minutes of being the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’ of a teenage party. We watch from afar as they argue, swear, smoke up, drink and repeat. The language is vulgar but reminiscent of the language we hear from today’s teenagers who are either not mature or creative enough to learn alternative ways of expressing themselves.
Eventually they begin to open up to each other and a central theme emerges, one of not understanding where or who they belong to. They talk about their families (all come from vastly different home situations), and friends (or lack thereof) and we realize that none of them feel like they belong anywhere – yet all desperately want to.
The play falters in places, mainly suffering from a feeling as though it is trying too hard. The material is edgy and controversial but at times it feels forced – almost as if it had to prove that it could be ‘provocative’. That being said, all six actors give superb and dedicated performances, showcasing vulnerability amidst the angst and doing an excellent job of channeling into the minds and hearts of the youngsters they are meant to be portraying.
Ann-Marie Kerr’s direction is carefully thought out – the characters bob and weave around the party seamlessly and at times your eyes may be directed to a specific event on stage but if you allow them to wander you will be treated to some humorous dalliances. Narda McCarroll’s set is suitably dark and easily believable as the garage of an 18 year old stoner.
All in all, The Circle is a brave and adventurous examination of the lives of today’s youth. Alberta Theatre Project’s states that they believe all Calgarians under the age of 25 should see this play, and as a result are offering $25 tickets to anyone under 25.
Sadly it’s been more years than I would like to admit since I was under 25, but I can’t help but think that this play would have resonated differently with me were I within that age range. Perhaps I would have identified with the characters a bit more, and I would like to think I would have learned something from their plight and their mistakes. Maybe it would have caused me to take a closer look at my own life and what I was missing. Potentially it could have helped me avoid some of the mistakes I made, and identify red flags in the lives of those around me.
In that sense I feel The Circle is an important piece of theatre that will hopefully drive conversation and connection among our increasingly disconnected and detached youth.
When and Where?
Alberta Theatre Projects
On stage now until Nov 7th, 2015
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit http://atplive.com/whats-on/the-circle/
The play tells of a group of friends who are getting together. Ily (Joe Perry) gets a call from an old friend Tyler, who now goes by Mutt (Geoffrey Simon Brown) and Ily invites him to hang out. Amanda (Elisa Benzer), Ily’s girlfriend isn’t exactly thrilled at knowing this. She has already invited her friend Will (Daniel Fong) and his boyfriend Daniel (Brett Dahl) over. Ily doesn’t think it’s a big deal because it isn’t a party. It’s people just coming over to hang out. Oh, and Mutt’s girlfriend Kit (Leanne Govier) is coming as well. Thus unfolds an evening of drinking, though everyone but Ily is underage, smoking up and generally hanging out.
The Circle plays with timelines. It cuts to different scenes by having a separator physically drop in front of the set. We then get a peek into the different relationships and the issues at play, like how Mutt just got kicked out of his mom’s place and is looking for somewhere to stay for a while. Daniel and Will are still trying to figure out their relationship and their feelings.