Collectively derided as dreaded millennials, the youth of today have probably had greater than their fair share of epithets thrown at them. The short-hand of the apathetic avocado smashing hipster maligns and discredits a whole generation and is something that writer and director James Raggatt seeks to get beneath in his first play, Youth and Destination.
The initial spark for this play came after having had a series of what looked like starting points for plays lead nowhere. As Raggatt reflected, the play coalesced when he thought “what if I take all these different things that keep occurring to me as individual plays and actually start putting them in a play together and see what happens.”
The product of this combining of ideas is both introspective and seeking to reflect the world, for as Raggatt noted, “in a lot of ways this play is very much the contents of my head just sort of placed on a page” yet at the same time “the product of that is this kind of collection of the things in the world that I notice and want to talk about.”
Developed with the support Kings Cross Theatre (KXT) and Raggatt has assembled around him a chorus of youthful collaborators who’ve been keen to move away from traditional methods of storytelling, which has had some unconventional results.
“As we've been rehearsing the play this kind of original instinct to transcend these common ideas of narrative and storytelling has also led to transcending other tropes that we kind of take for granted in theatre,” described Raggatt. “We don't need to do this drama school scene change that is really just there to mollycoddle the audience through the story they're being told rather than just letting them sit in this world that we've created and figuring it out for themselves.”
The world that the play stages is one that feels close to home for Raggatt and the cast as in the process of development, scenes have been added that reference the lived experience of those on stage.
“There's quite a few scenes that we've introduced over the course of the play that have been inspired by or directly influenced by the actors themselves.” Raggatt has allowed the rehearsal space to also be one of production and reflection.
Rather than attempting to force this multiplicity of experiences into one narrative, the structure of the play borrows from writers such as English playwright Caryl Churchill who is known for her compilation of short, episodic scenes which resist formulaic dramatic arcs. Sitting these moments next to each other has led to the play, in the words of Raggatt, “tapping into the broad scope of what it is to be alive.” Instead of stories, the play revolves around ideas or themes.
Structurally, the play also eschews convention. The audience will not be given a single takeaway idea, but rather invited into the space and world that is created on stage. To do this, Raggatt allows for multiple things to be happening on the stage at the same time, with the aim to “just let it be a collective experience rather than something you need to be guided through.”
For those familiar with KXT, where Youth and Destination will premiere, it’s understood how the audience will feel a part of the action on stage. As the space is in the traverse, where audience sit on two sides of the stage, facing each other, the experience will undoubtedly feel collective. As Raggatt highlights, this is part of the aim of the play, “we don't only recognise the art that's happening on the stage but we recognise the people who we are sharing the experience of watching it with.”
Indeed, seeing ourselves is as much the aim of the play as seeing the world on stage and this leads to more questions being posed, than answers being delivered. This approach in part stems from Raggatt’s own interest in philosophy, which he studies part time. Modern idealism, one of the schools at the focus of Raggatt’s study, sought to continuously refine a question, rather than find its answer. Transposing this attitude to theatre leads Raggatt to note that this is “partly theatre's responsibility. I know people often demand answers but they're all too often fatally flawed.”
Youth and Destination will premiere at KXT on April 27, find out more and buy tickets here http://www.kingsxtheatre.com/youth-destination