All Stops Out

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Currency Press, 1991 - Australian drama - 94 pages
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Text of a play which was commissioned by the Australian Theatre for Young People in Sydney and deals with young people facing end-of-year exams. This author's previous works include The Kid', The Astronaut's Wife', On Top of the World' and Away'. Away' won the 1986 Premier's Award for Best Play, the Sydney Theatre Critics Award and the 1987 Awgie Award.

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An Australian play concerning the subtext of undertaking Year 12, the final year of Secondary Schooling, and the subsequent pressures and expectations placed upon Year 12 students. Written in the late '80s, the play's content relates to the New South Wales curriculum of the time which placed, in Gow's view, undue amounts of grade weighting on exams and as such critiques, subtly so, this exam period as the "be all and end all" of one's final marks. Featuring an incredibly broad cast of characters, some interconnected, others not as much, from an office worker and an "easy breezy" mum to prison inmates and a journalist and her cameraman documenting the lead-up to the final exams, interviewing a variety, or comical microcosm, of students and their parents. While featuring clichéd aspects of society that today seem outdated, the play is also unpopular for some secondary students who, on one occasion, studied and performed All Stops Out while they themselves struggled with the trials, tribulations and overall ordeal that is Year 12, and didn't appreciate studying what was effectively their lives at that point in time. Nonetheless, character portrayal, obviously, comes down to the acting and characterisation and, in some instances, certain characters can appear uncannily true to life, much to the delight of audiences. The lack of stage direction also allows for strong, personal input from directors across the board. In one case, the contrasting styles of Stanislavski were used for the "Beach" scenes to depict the characters being true to themselves whereas the contrasting styles of Bertolt Brecht were used for the majority of remaining scenes to show the "framing" of people in their socially-imposed roles within the world of the play.
Overall, the play is a relatively good dissertation of the Year 12 system that, despite it's erstwhile content in places, is ripe for adaptation for both actors and directors, one of the Australian plays held in personally high regard.

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