Life, Death, and In Between

Danette Potgieter and Levi Kenway take on the roles of Essie and Rabbit in Full Throttle Theatre Company's 'Samson.' IMAGE: Photobase NQ

“There’s certain kinds of pressures that living in a small town can put on young people mentally, especially when they’re going through hardship. They don’t feel safe going through things in their own way because they feel like they’re betraying their parents or church or friends, or something else they’ve grown up with. Samson looks at those pressures and shows when pressure is applied to people who are already struggling, eventually something’s going to happen.” – Levi Kenway

You are a teenager living in a small town. Friends are sparse as it is – and then one of them dies. How would you cope? What would you do?

Full Throttle Theatre Company will ask these questions and more when they bring Samson to the Old Courthouse Theatre this October.

The play centres around four teenage characters as they each cope with the fallout of this lifechanging event in their own way. Danette Potgieter, playing Essie, said Samson offered a window into the world of young Australians today.

“The characters are each so different that the audience is sure to find bits of themselves in one or all of us – even if they can’t relate to the narrative of the play, they’ll feel a connection to it through us,” Danette said.

“My character, Essie, has lived in this town most of her life and is this really rough-around-the-edges type of character who rebels against the conformity of the town and the people in it. With the death, we see how it shapes people differently. Even if two characters come from similar backgrounds, Samson shows how they end up completely different when it comes to certain points in life.”

Sharing the stage with Danette, Levi Kenway takes on the role of Rabbit.

“Rabbit’s kind of a weirder character in his own little noman’s-land world … He’s just moved to the town with his mum so is a bit of an outcast without any friends – so then when he meets Essie, he instantly tries forming something with her,” Levi said.

“Because he is such a dark outcast, I can’t specifically relate to him, so really had to use my imagination to understand the circumstances he’s going through and put myself in his shoes.

“It’s been really eye-opening reading and talking about what can happen in these situations and how it affects people in contrasting ways.”

The impact on each character and on youth in general has always been part of the conversations shared at rehearsals – in what Danette and Levi agreed was a two-way conversation with Director Laurie Page.

“Laurie really lets us make our own choices and take our own risks, but also has a clear idea of where he wants the narrative to go so helps us build towards that together,” said Levi.

“It’s a really fun way to do things, and not what I was expecting. It’s a play about young people, so I think if it was directed by someone who couldn’t relate as strongly with youth anymore, it probably wouldn’t have the same impact. Because he’s still reasonably young, and works with students every week, he knows exactly how to make each of our characters shine through and it’s been fantastic working with him.”

“It’s an eye-to-eye kind of direction,” said Danette. “It’s very collaborative where we’re all encouraged to bring our ideas to the table; [Laurie] loves hearing from us and you see the production build even more through that, so you feel like part of the process rather than just rocking up to rehearsals, reading lines, and leaving.

“I’ve worked with Laurie before and love his passion as a Director. He always has something new to deliver and isn’t afraid to take risks, so when he asked me to be involved I didn’t hesitate. He offered me Essie and I read the character description, the script, and related to her in many ways – I saw parts of myself in her.

“I was brought up in a religious family, so I know how much that can influence your life; the way you grow up, and the expectations that are held for you when you do. Recently my grandpa passed away so with the play focusing on how the characters cope with death, it’s been quite therapeutic and really offered a chance for self-reflection too.”

It’s one of life’s few certainties. It’s inevitable, but no one is ever truly ready to lose their loved ones. What happens when they do?

Catch Samson by Full Throttle Theatre Company at the Old Courthouse Theatre from 4-13 October. Click here for tickets.

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