By Laura Hartnell
Young people cop a lot of shit. They spend too long on social media, they’re self-obsessed, take too many selfies, are snowflakes, say ‘like’ too much… They’re constantly living their lives in the public sphere, under scrutiny every moment of the day. Rarely, though, do adults stop to notice how much transformative deep thinking and emotional labour teens and young people do for themselves, their friends, and their community. ‘Anything & Everything’—a collaborative film and art project between six young people, directed by Jackson Castiglione—puts the identity and creativity of young people centre stage, and offers the public a rare and privileged insight into how they understand themselves, each other, and the world.
Performed in a studio in ACMI, ‘Anything and Everything’ is part art installation, part-performance, part-philosophical examination of what it means to be young, to have a body, to live on the internet, and to be in relationship and community. The performers control multiple cameras in a black box, composing shots in real time, directing each other out loud. Their images appear on multiple screens at once—a kaleidoscopic kind of self-representation—at the same time as we watch their bodies move and speak, sometimes confessing, sometimes pondering, sometimes chatting amongst themselves, always opening doorways into their inner worlds. The piece is defined by its playful and thoughtful rendering of bodies, and how they can be augmented, interrupted, and transformed through our representation of ourselves online. The result is a touching, deeply human and empathetic piece of theatre.
As the ensemble shuffles between shots, moving cameras and lights, rehearsing, then shooting, each performer gets the opportunity to present their own monologue and film their own video self portrait; a playful and artistic take on the selfies and self-representation that govern every day of young peoples’ lives. Poppy contemplates dropping out of school: what’s the point of VCE, anyway, when her mental health is going down the drain and the school system is betraying me? Harriet considers her physical appearance in relationship to those around her and broader society. Saskia’s is a quiet, creative presence that grounds other performers’ monologues, as well as her own. Zara first shares her dream horse farm, and later discusses the fact that she shouldn’t have to have a comment on racism just because she’s the only person of colour in the ensemble. Ebony discusses their experience of being non-binary, and being in the in-between space of teenagehood and adulthood: “I stopped being a teenage girl three years ago and I stopped being a girl a year ago so I’m not sure where I fit in those conversations.” And Eza shares their experience of autism—they have had to teach themselves how to smile—and discusses the way society treats disability, making it either inspirational or pitiable, but never neutral. “I worry that my reason for being in the world won’t meet the minimum word count,” says Eza. It’s a gut-punch moment of vulnerability and honesty, and an example of the sophisticated cultural and personal analysis that runs through the whole show.
All of the performers have a beautiful presence on the stage, because they are being themselves, speaking their own words through their own creative lenses. It is the sort of comfort and confidence that can only come from strong, genuine, and supportive relationships, and it is clear that through the development process—done collaboratively online over the past two years—these young people have developed a deeply connected community. When Saskia is filming her self-portrait, the other performers direct her, telling her to ‘hold your power.’ And it feels like that is what these performers have learned to do more confidently through this process: stand up and embody who they are unapologetically, all the various and competing parts of themselves, with support from a creative and collaborative community.
‘What might it be like to see ourselves and each other through a butterfly’s eyes?’ these young people ask. All angles of ourselves, all the parts of our bodies we cannot see in the mirror, seen all at once? Could we even handle it? All our parts at once? Can others handle it? Can the world? If we embraced all the parts of ourselves, might we find perhaps that we are beautiful and loveable just as we are? ‘Anything & Everything is a heartfelt, smart, courageous performance that deserves to be widely seen and celebrated.’