Dark tales of childhood in Playthings

Courtney Henri (Aubin Grove) playing Lucy and writer and director Scott McArdle (North Perth). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d496388
Courtney Henri (Aubin Grove) playing Lucy and writer and director Scott McArdle (North Perth). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d496388

WHEN Scott McArdle was 11 years old, the saying “bad things come in threes” became a reality when his parents divorced, his best friend died after being hit by a car and his grandfather died all within a month.

“In that formative stage where you’re on the cusp of teenagehood it just alters you, on a brain chemistry level as well as we later discovered,” McArdle, of North Perth, said.

“No one knew how to handle it, let alone thought that an 11 year old could have clinical depression, anxiety and PTSD, which was something that simmered for about five years.

“Then when I was 16 three friends of mine passed away in a car accident, which brought everything up again.

“Our community was ripped apart and transformed by these events; there was guilt and anger rippling through it all that we didn’t understand at the time.”

Ten years on, the Murdoch University and WAAPA graduate has found clarity in the events and wants to share those insights in his independent theatre company Second Chance Theatre production Playthings.

“Everyone always said at the time that no kid should have to be going through this; you lose a lot of your childhood and innocence there,” writer and director McArdle said.

“I think there’s important stories to tell and that kids are vulnerable and not resilient. They’re good at hiding things and there are signs to watch out for.

“Angry violent kids don’t come from video games, they come from trauma, abuse and witnessing things they shouldn’t witness.”

Playthings began as a 10-minute work during McArdle’s time in Barking Gecko Theatre and the Australian Theatre for Young People’s 2017 Fresh Ink program, where he was struck by the image of two kids walking through the bush to find a dying kangaroo.

“This Australian gothic image was also intermingled with growing up in the WA suburbs or kids doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” he said.

It has now developed into a production featuring 13-year-old characters Lucy (Courtney Henri) and Arnold (Daniel Buckle).

Lucy carries a knife and is filled with anger, traits McArdle said was usually associated more with young men.

“Arnold is another look at masculinity that more fit me,” he said.

“He’s raised by a single mum, he’s witnessed something awful and is very submissive and drawn.

“They’re sort of an amalgamation of all these kids I went to school with. They’re navigating and trying to discover who they are and what they believe in while also suffering from pretty heavy stuff.

“These are really real human stories with a real beating heart that is very WA.”

 

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Playthings

Where: The Blue Room Theatre

When: November 5 to 23

Tickets: blueroom.org.au

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