A quietly beautiful devotion to teenage psyche

The audience feels teenage character Cassie’s embarrassment and pain every step of the way in ‘Gone Viral’, a play examining issues such as childhood grief, underage drinking and sexuality, writes reviewer Sebastian Cooper.

May 22, 2017, updated May 22, 2017
A vivid set adds to the impact of Gone Viral. Photo:  Val Bubner

A vivid set adds to the impact of Gone Viral. Photo: Val Bubner

Cassie Lowe is a normal teenager dealing with normal teenage issues, including Year 12, boys, friends and partying. But there’s one difference: her father is dying.

He’s been dying for three years and Cassie still hasn’t figured out the right words to say goodbye.

Gone Viral, written by award-winning playwright Sally Hardy, examines complex subject matter such as childhood grief, underage drinking and sexuality through an approachable and relatable focal point in main character Cassie (Yvonne McAulay).

Cassie is torn between her two friendship groups – her studious best friend Anh (Clare Mansfield), who doesn’t approve of Cassie’s partying antics, and the cool kids Tam (Hugo Fielke) and Rachel (Chiara Gabrielli), who, while not always having her best interests at heart, facilitate her release of pent-up angst and emotion.

Hardy’s script is wonderfully written: the dialogue of the characters is convincing, and they each have flaws and make bad decisions that add to the realism. The adults, too, have shortcomings, and the complex relationship between Cassie and her mother Bev (Julie Wood) highlights the ever-expanding gap between parents and their teenage children.

All five actors give strong performances. McAuley’s portrayal of Cassie is gripping. Her breaking of the fourth wall is tasteful and her voice echoes the emotion that her monologues describe. The audience feels Cassie’s embarrassment, pain and torture every step of the way.

Hugo Fielke has a dynamic presence, playing three important characters in different stages of life. His portrayal of Cassie’s cancer-stricken father, Steve, is particularly distinguished – the subtleties in his movements and posture are harrowing, and for a character with no dialogue and relatively little stage time, it is a credit to the actor that this performance really captures the sobering reality of the piece.

Director Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, alongside her creative team, has constructed a simple but vivid and interactive set. Lighting and sound design by Matthew Ralph and Callan Fleming are mesmerising and give insight into Cassie’s mind in her happiest times and her most desperate hours.

With the pandemic of Netflix series 13 Reasons Why sweeping the world in a wave of teenage angst, Gone Viral is a quietly beautiful devotion to teenage psyche. It is sad and funny and authentic.

Gone Viral was presented at Tandanya as part of the DreamBIG children’s festival. The play’s season has now ended, but the festival continues until May 27.

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