Based on the true story of 16-year-old’s Kristjan Teraud’s drug-related death: the production of ‘April’s Fool’, directed by David Burton, is set to stir the stages of the Judith Wright Centre.
The Toowoomba teenager fell victim to a lethal cocktail of drugs and alcohol in April 2009, just weeks before his 19th birthday. Burton saw the incident as means of displaying the power of drugs on communities through the stage.
The lead role is played by USQ Theatre Arts graduate Sam Clark, who says the production is one of the most powerful experiences he’s ever had on stage. “It’s not intended to be didactic and not trying to slap people around the head and say ‘this is bad’ or ‘this is good’. It’s a story about family and communities. Anybody that has been in contact with somebody that has died can really get something out of this,” says Clark.
‘April’s Fool’ has received international praise by teenagers, parents, teachers, youth workers and theatre critics alike for its raw, meaningful content and ability to connect with audiences.
Themes of love, loss, friendship, family, community and choices are explored as a five-strong cast cope with Kristjan’s death. “It’s ultimately about how the family and community deal with the death of a particularly charismatic young person who had lots of friends,” says Clark.
“We use the device of individual actors playing multiple characters so the audience can disconnect it from an ordinary realism play and use it in their own lives. We worked really hard, disconnected from our usual lives, so we could really concentrate on it.
“It’s heartbreaking when you’re performing it sometimes, but you just have to remember that these are real people and it’s a real story. It brings a kind of task to it as an actor.”
Burton spent over 24 hours interviewing Kristjan’s community in the lead-up to the play’s production. “I became extremely aware of the fragile web of a community and how easily it can be disturbed,” he says.
Clark says the production has benefited from a realistic approach. “You’ve got to keep in mind it’s a real person and a real story; David hasn’t made anything up. Whenever you watch someone dealing with a trauma or a death it helps you to understand how to deal with that in your own life. You can empathically live through them, and deal with those things yourself,” he says.
“You can see how people around Kristjan came together. His friends from high school, who knew all about one side of him, his family and his grandparents, the nurses and the doctors. They all came together and when something like this happens, it creates a commonality.
“I remember the opening night was for Kristjan’s friends and family. At the end they all got on their feet and there was a standing ovation, but it was for the play, the subject matter and celebrating who this person really was, and also them (Kristjan’s friends and family) feeling themselves reflected on stage. It really drove home how important this production really is.
“During the first season, we got a really strong reaction from the audiences. I think you can feel it because these are real people’s words that somehow really connect with the audience.”
The production portrays issues that many youth can relate to. “It’s about communication and a disconnect between generations. People, including parents, don’t understand that they can actually talk about things. I hope that people, especially students and youth, can walk away from the play feeling like they can talk about anything.”
‘April’s Fool’ will be performed at the Judith Wright Centre April 20 - 21.