By Amanda Parkinson
Photos taken by the child, distributed as sexting, made viral by peers and justified as ‘selfies’ … are they child porn? The Tender Age, co-directed by David Williams and Fraser Corfield explores the impact of social media on adolescents’ sexual maturity.
The play, inspired by the infamous on-air lie detector test with Kyle Sandilands and a sexually abused 14-year-old girl, forces the audience to grapple with online identity in the digital age. Video artist Sean Bacon suspends a collage of screens above the stage broadcasting webcam, texting, picture messages and video exploring the evolution of screens in daily life.
In a series of small acts the production explores a dichotomy between teenage exploration and the now very public spaces which exploit it. How has social media changed our relationships? Are we in more need of attention, validation? “It’s one of those moments where our culture has to stop and look at itself and say ‘…what have we become?’” David Williams says.
The combined cast, from Australian Theatre for Young People and version 1.0, attempts to capture the conversations young people have with each other. Using elements of humour they delve into serious issues of social pressure, rape and binge drinking.
Actor Deng Akot Deng breaks character at one point and calls for volunteers to take “selfies” (photographic self-portraits) and send them to a phone number displayed on the screens above the stage. Later in the production members of the cast use the images to show just how quickly a photo can be taken out of context and made viral.
The Tender Age is a powerful production but is sometimes slightly disjointed in its execution. It leaves audiences questioning just how do we protect this generation, and the ones to follow?
version 1.0: http://www.versiononepointzero.com/
Featured image: The Tender Age … exploring serious social issues. Photo: Carriageworks Theatre