Sophia Forrest and Darius Williams team up for ‘You and I’

Sophia Forrest and Darius Williams are appearing together in the play You and I. The coming of age tale is authored by Lauren Gunderson, who has been named as the most popular and produced living playwright in the USA.

The story focuses on Caroline, a teenager who hasn’t been to school for months – sick at home, she’s trapped in her bedroom with only Facebook, Twitter and Insta for company. When classmate Anthony arrives unexpectedly, spouting Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and brandishing an unfinished English Lit project he urgently needs her help with, she is less than impressed and rejects this intrusion into her damaged life.

As they come together and reveal themselves through Whitman’s electric poetry and over waffle fries, they discover a connection far deeper than either of them could ever have imagined.

Stuart Halusz, Artistic Director THEATRE 180 describes the play as one filled with brutal honesty.

“This beautiful play is devastating in its brutal honesty, bristling with teenage anxiety and desire. Haunting and uplifting, the stunning reveal at the end is the most sublime moment you may ever experience at the theatre. This is not to be missed.”

To stage the play in Perth, two outstanding young actors have been recruited. Sophia Forrest, who has previously appeared in the TV series Love Child and the film Ride Like a Girl takes on the role of Caroline, while Darius Williams, who made his mark as the first regular queer character on Home & Away, plays Anthony.  Former Artistic Director of Black Swan State Theatre, Kate Cherry, directs.

Speaking to the actors during rehearsals they told OUTinPerth that the appeal in the play is it’s great characters.

“I think the relationship that they have is very interesting,” Williams said. “There’s quite a punch point to begin the play, and I think you you’re very much invited to who they are straight away, which is really nice. I think we’ve had a lot of fun kind of playing with the push and pull between the two of them.  I’d say there’s a lot to love about the both of them.”

Williams describes the story as being filled with little ‘easter eggs’ that reveal more about the characters as the play progresses.

“They come to trust each other,” Forrest said. “They reveal more about themselves and become more and more vulnerable. In the space of an hour they become as close as friends really can be.”

When Anthony arrives unexpectedly at Caroline’s house, he’s brought an assignment involving the poet Walt Whitman, something which Williams says beings another layer to the story.

“Especially through the beautiful language of Walt Whitman as well, that there’s I think, as another layer, from Anthony’s perspective. He comes very much from a place of appreciation. You know, when you when you’re passionate about something, it can be infectious. So I think that what I love about it, it’s being able to be like, ‘Oh, I love this thing. Can you like, appreciate it with me?'”

Williams describes the poet, whose sexuality has been deeply debated, as a third character in the tale.

While many people might not have heard of the playwright Lauren Gunderson, she’s currently breaking records in the USA as one of the most performed playwrights, coming only second to Shakespeare, who had quite a head start by a few hundred years. Forrest reveals that Gunderson has even reached out to the local production via Instagram to ask if they had any questions they needed answered about the story.

For Darius Williams, who’ll be making his Western Australian theatre debut with his production, he admits to being a little bit nervous after having his professional life on hold for most of 2020 The prospect of working with Forrest though, got him very excited.

“I was very, very glad to firstly know that Sophia was working on it, and secondly to know that Sophia was also a WAAPA graduate. I’d heard of a lot of very good things, but I was nervous, because I was like, you know, first time, but as soon as I got in the rehearsal room it all went away, we just jumped on the floor had a bit of fun.”

While both actors trained at the WA Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University, they hadn’t previously worked together before, but Forrest says there’s a shorthand that comes with someone who trained at the same institution.

“I think I felt a comfortability going into the room, knowing Darius was a WAAPA grad, because we had a similar dialect almost, about how we wanted to work and how we could break down a scene. I knew he’d be a hard worker because you have to be to survive three years at WAAPA. I was just excited to finally get back into theatre after COVID.

You and I is playing at Burt Hall from 8 – 29 May. 

Graeme Watson, Stewart Thorpe Photography

Declaration: Graeme Watson is an employee of Edith Cowan University, which incorporates the WA Academy of Performing Arts. 

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