Lambs Adelaide 2024Free Agents Youth Theatre. Goodwood Theatre and Studios. 13 June 2024


Underage conscription in WWI happened despite its illegality. Free Agents Youth Theatre’s Lambs delves into the how, why and at what cost.


Director/Writer Sean Riley’s production, developed over a two-year process with the cast has produced one of the richest, deeply considered and powerfully written hours of staged new theatre of 2024.


Lambs tackles that ‘one day of the year’ sociopolitical trope minus all the usual ANZAC mythology and virtue signalling, going directly to the realities at the core of 1900s Australia.


Australia is newly federated yet still colonial in heart and mind. England is still home. The Bush still heart of an agriculturally grounded society; yet it is a place to escape.

The world of Boys’ Own adventures and the ‘manly pursuit of honour’ fuels the extraordinary power of the production’s opening scene, encapsulating the spirit of the production’s intent as a whole.


“Once more unto the breach”, Shakespeare’s famed line from Henry The Fifth, utters Stanley Lamb (Eadan McGuiness) crouched on all fours in uniform as battle sound rages. A scene which quickly segues into a school group learning the play. A group eagerly discussing the oncoming potential of war. What is the breach? The trenches of France to come, unknown to teenage boys for whom war is a grand patriotic manly adventure.


It is Stanley and brothers Phillip (Hugo de Guzman) and Joseph (Jack Chadwick) whose fates illustrate choices made and the systems allowing them.


This smashing together of imagery and time in Riley’s writing and direction is a distinctive, deftly managed, powerful force of the production. Its narrative fuses present day bush town of St Judes and future trench warfare. Lambs traces the struggle between overt pro-war social attitudes, diminishing numbers of soldiers, and implicit but never spoken of acceptance of underage conscripts. It tears at family and community.


The work is at times chilling, heart-warming, and mournfully reflective, leaving you breathless often.


Riley’s cast is a powerful ensemble of extraordinary young actors, filling Riley’s intensely reflective, powerful and innocent characters’ dialogue and experiences with profoundly aware performances.


In their youth, even when playing roles older than themselves alongside those their own age, the cast absolutely accentuate the opportunistic barbarity of the desperate war times that accept child soldiers.


In partnership with Kim Liotta’s sparsely dressed set, Nic Mollison’s on point, scene defining light design, Eadan and Justin McGuiness of Little Fire Film’s mesmerising effective video design, and Composer Doctor Oscillator’s careful, mournful out of tune pianola score, Lambs is a complete world that could be a dream of the past, but is in fact emblematic of a lesser acknowledged truth of Australia’s WWI history.


David O’Brien


When: 13 to 15 June

Where: Goodwood Theatre and Studios