Young actors in mature roles

A group of teenagers are flying into Canada’s North on an eco-tour when their plane crash lands somewhere in the vast wilds of the Northwest Territories.

Cameron Chapman

Cameron Chapman

A group of teenagers are flying into Canada’s North on an eco-tour when their plane crash lands somewhere in the vast wilds of the Northwest Territories.

All of the adults aboard are killed and the adolescents are forced to fend for themselves while awaiting rescue. As the weeks drag on and no one arrives to save them, the 14-to-17-year-olds must learn to hunt for food and construct shelters to survive as winter approaches.

They must also establish a social order and learn how to work as a team or risk breaking into feuding factions.

If the scenario behind Tree House Youth Theatre’s next production, Last Known Position, sounds a bit Lord of the Flies-ish, it’s no coincidence.

Artistic Director Matt Gould admitted he was inspired by the William Golding novel about British schoolboys who descend into savagery when left in a primitive state, far from civilization.

But Gould stressed that Last Known Position, which runs from June 2 to 4 at the Scott Block in Red Deer, isn’t nearly as “intense” as the contentious book, in which some characters are murdered.

“This is more a question of whether the community thrives or does not thrive. How do they survive or do they survive?” said Gould, who supposes the play is somewhat like episodes of the TV show Survivor — only more hangs in the balance for the characters, who face life or death situations.

“Some kids do better than others because they have better internal or even external resources. One kid retreats into his childhood to deal with the trauma of what’s happened,” said Gould, who created the script after his 13 young actors improvised scenes about people reacting to a catastrophe.

“We started developing characters in the fall,” recalled the director. He became very impressed by the young actors’ commitment to the project and their ability to immerse themselves in their roles.

“When we were working on the last few scenes, some of them were crying at the end. They were really crying. . . . Yesterday was a huge breakthrough,” Gould said.

“That final scene was unbelievable. It was stunning. I’d never had the kids perform like this before.”

Last Known Position is a departure from more family-related Tree House fare, such as Mulan or The Wind in the Willows, but after 23 years in Red Deer, Gould believes the youth theatre group is ready to tackle meatier subject matter and more involved acting.

A character in Last Known Position films video diaries, so other “survivors” are called upon to perform monologues in front of the camera.

“They’re very moving,” said Gould, who feels his young cast has stretched so much with the hard-hitting material that “I want the whole world to come see this play.”

He feels it’s appropriate viewing for anyone age 12 and up. While there’s some bad language, “there are no f-bombs. . . . It’s not unlike what you might see on TV or at the movies.”

Tickets are $17.50 ($14.50 seniors and students) from Shows are at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday to Saturday, June 2 to 4, and also at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 4, at 5818 50th Ave.