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BUZZCUTS: Young & Jackson

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See article in its original context here by Nisha Joseph for BUZZCUTS.

Project Series: Young & Jackson the Play, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2015

If paintings could talk, what stories would they tell us? Chloe – the model in a painting that has hung in the Young & Jackson bar since 1908, has seen everything from new friends to world wars.

The year is 1945 and in a bid to defend Chloe against an American serviceman and his glass of beer, Jimmy and Keith step in, all bravado and drunk excitement. The two energetic, newly recruited sailors are itching to get their feet wet and finally be part of the war effort. As the play progresses, we are shown the stark reality of wartime in the form of Les – a more experienced sailor suffering from PTSD – and Lorna. Lorna is shrouded in mystery for the young men; she is a force of nature and a fierce dose of feminism in all the right places.

From the very beginning, the audience is immersed in the world of the play. Director Wayne Harrison has done an impeccable job of inviting the audience in. We are shown to our individual tables, complete with Melbourne Bitters and lemonade, and given the chance to take in the set up. Action happens in three separate locations around the audience – the bar, the hotel room at Young & Jackson, and a hospital room, and the audience follows the actors from location to location, swiveling in their seats to keep up. An ingenious arrangement, this allows for the actors to, on occasion, interact with audience members and leaves the audience feeling like the imaginative world of the play is coming to life around them.

And what a world! The actors, Jacob Machin as Jimmy, Charlie Cousins as Keith, Garielle Scawthorn as Lorna, and Sam Duncan as Les, were all incredible powerhouses of strong vocals and imagination, with an unmistakable camaraderie that held it all together. The juxtaposition of the naïve newly recruited sailors Jimmy and Keith, and more experienced characters Lorna and Les create for us an unusual image of wartime. Next to Jimmy and Keith’s revelry and life of abundance, we also see the horrors of war encapsulated in the incidents that Les and Lorna experienced or were aware of.

Eventually, the war comes to an end and celebration is in the air. Group dynamics are forced to change, but there is no finality there. The friendship lives on – in the play Codgers, also by Don Reid, for which this was intended as a prequel. Overall, the play was a beautiful story of 4 youths on the cusp of great change in the world. As with most youths living through a time of great change, their lives ebb and flow almost as per normal, with love and friendship playing a key role.

Time passes and much has changed. The year is 2015 and we no longer need to buy blouses from Myer with coupons, or nylon from the black market. War is no longer glamorous. PTSD is recognized and treated properly. Other things, however, remain the same. Men and women meet and bond over drinks. Young recruits will always be up for a laugh. And Chloe still watches over the bar in Young & Jackson, on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street.


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