It was a cold winter evening, and after eating a pretzel, my friend “Engineering Student” and I were warming ourselves up with a drink at Lot Twenty before the show. We had tickets to Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of Switzerland; an Australian play written by Joanna Murray-Smith, first presented by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2014.
Before too long, we walked around the corner to collect our tickets and continued upstairs to our seats. We immediately realised we were the youngest in the audience by at least a decade, with only a handful of other audience members we could definitively say were not grandparents.
This was unsurprising though. After watching several plays in Perth, I have come to the realisation that this is the norm for live theatre productions. Often, those under the age of thirty only seem to make up a very minute portion of ticket holders—yet, I can undoubtedly say I have an amazing time at each and every theatre show I attend, so why don’t more millennials go to the theatre?
The general consensus is theatre-goers tend to be mature and often female, with a disposable income—this disposable income is something we can assume millennials are lacking. After all, the majority of higher education students in Australia are under the age of twenty-four. This high percentage of studying-millennials in turn means that the demographic tends to have a lower income than older generations who do not, or are no longer, studying.
This seems like the most obvious answer; however, it is possible to go to live theatre at a cost equal to or no more than that of a visit to the cinema. While it is said that our generation is also single-handedly destroying the film industry through alternative online platforms, I cannot help but notice that when I go to the cinema the average attendee is around my age.
The performing arts that younger generations gravitate towards tend to be Hollywood films and television; the type of media we see advertised at the start of a Youtube video, or perhaps at the very cinema we always go to, at the start of another Hollywood film. This means that routine habits disable the opportunity to discover wonderful local performing arts, just like Switzerland.
Switzerland is a very well written production; the humour throughout is witty and the storyline is smart and well researched. Due to the intelligent nature of the communication between the characters on stage, the play has wisely been presented aesthetically simplistically. The audience has the view of only one set for the entire hour-and-forty-minute duration, with slight changes made as necessary to provide props for the performance. The performances given by Jenny Davis and Giuseppe Rotondella, playing the only two characters in the play, Patricia Highsmith and Edward Ridgeway respectively, were truly impressive.
However, as brilliantly written as Switzerland is, it must have been missing something, or indeed I must have been missing something, because for at least an hour and thirty minutes of watching Switzerland, I was bored out of my fucking mind. The elderly majority of the audience on the other hand, were responding to the witty lines with loud chortle-like laughter. Switzerland was funny, but it was certainly not laugh-out-loud comedy. It was interesting, but not intriguing. The performance on the actors’ behalves were solid, but they were not enticing.
As much as I would like to encourage you all to go to a live theatre production, this is not the play that I would recommend—unless of course you actually like shows that bore you to sleep, just as this one did for Engineering Student at around the twenty-minute mark. Switzerland may not have been all I hoped for but a sudden sleeping and snoring Engineering Student made me laugh so much, I thought everyone around me might start looking at me as if I’d lost my sanity. So, Switzerland gave me an experience I won’t forget, or that I will ever let Engineering Student forget.
The local performing arts industry in Perth has some true talent, and while great shows may be a little hard to find I really do urge you to actively seek out other forms of performing arts that you may not normally think to watch—throw in a pretzel and some grog and you can’t go wrong.
Switzerland is running at the Heath Ledger Theatre until September 3.