If diversity and visibility are important on screen for young audiences then the young mob from ABC3’s Ready for This are here to please.
Dance Academy producer Joanne Werner teams up with Darren Dale and Miranda Dear of Blackfella Films (Redfern Now, First Contact) for a 13 part series featuring Indigenous youth.
5 teens, mostly from the Top End, are given a chance to pursue their ambitious careers at Sydney schools specialising in Sport or the Arts, and offered a chance to stay at Arcadia House hostel.
For some it’s the chance of a lifetime, for others an excuse to leave their world behind. What unites them is an elite talent and their heritage, which is about to be challenged in the big smoke.
Budding AFL player Levi (Aaron McGrath) is drawn to Zoe (Madeleine Madden), who dreams of being the next Cathy Freeman. But despite their attraction, they quickly learn their families are warring foes -setting them up for a kind of Romeo & Juliet story arc.
Torres Strait teen Ava (Majeda Beatty) has musical skills but turns shy when it comes to singing in public. She’s also nervous of possible ghosts in her Arcadia House bedroom -get ready for a traditional smoking ceremony to rid the house of spirits.
Dylan (Liam Talty) is also a musical prodigy, but isn’t interested in pursuing the violin his father wants for him -his heart lies in electronic music.
Rebellious Lily (Leonie Whyman) is just happy to get away from her family but forges an early friendship with local teen Reece (Christian Byers), the only principal character who isn’t a resident at the hostel.
Managing Arcadia House are Vee (Christine Anu) and Mick (Lasarus Ratuere), both of whom show benevolent interests that help form an extended family under the hostel roof. Carla Bonner and Hamish Michael also make appearances as instructors.
Underpinning this series is the theme of Integration. Sydney serves as a kind of urban jungle to our young heroes, but their roots in Indigenous communities run deep. Whether in a history class, or strolling through Redfern, they display considerable pride and perspective for some so young. There are hints of Dreamtime and a connection to the land, in between listening to the latest music and connected devices.
Aimed at its young audience there are also broader themes about individuality, bullying, forming friendships, peer-group pressure and doses of romance.
While previous dramas such as Dance Academy have featured multiculturalism through individual character experiences, here it is driven by an ensemble. The young leads all rise to the occasion.
The opening double episode is probably a bit long at 44 minutes without stronger plotting, but the single episodes that follow hit the mark much better.
I’m a little confused by the divided setting of some of the characters at an arts school and others at a sports school (it’s less aggressive than Heath Ledger’s Sweat), but the appeal lays with the buoyant characters whose heart is certainly in the right place.
Ready For This premieres 6:20pm Monday October 5th on ABC3.