CACTUS by Madelaine Nunn


Friendship | Coming of Age | Identity

“Everyone knows that friendships made in bathrooms are ones that last for life.”

Cactus is a brutally funny and heartbreakingly honest new play by one of the country’s most exciting new playwrights, Madelaine Nunn.

Cactus follows Abbie and her best friend PB as they navigate the last tumultuous year of high school. It’s going well. Milestones are being met. Exams are drawing near. Freedom is on the horizon. Then Abbie receives unexpected news that turns her life upside down. Can she still share this with her best friend? And what will it mean for the future she hadn’t even imagined yet?

Cactus is a play for and about young people. Centered around a pre-mature dilemma, the work speaks to the contemporary concerns, fears and hopes of our youth. Using an eclectic performance style including naturalism, magic realism, disjointed time and character transformation, Cactus tackles the journey from childhood to adulthood with humour and nuance.

“Cactus brings to life the awkwardness and vulnerability of adolescence through well-crafted and vital performance… This would be an ideal introduction to theatre for schools.” - Cameron Woodhead, The Age

Cactus aims to challenge taboos by normalising often-unseen experiences of adolescence and to interrogate the current social views on gender and the societal pressures put on young people as they transition from teenager to young adult.

The performance text operates within three worlds, which are used to further connect the audience with Abbie’s emotional journey by observing the action and events through her eyes. Actors play multiple roles through manipulation of physicality, language, voice and gesture. The play oscillates from everyday colloquial dialogue – including the use of text messaging – to poetic and lyrical language. The colloquial language contextualises the audience and grounds the characters in the real world, whereas the heightened/poetic language is used to create surreal moments, rich in imagery, to reflect the internal struggle of the protagonist. In addition to this, subtext is used throughout as characters often mask their feelings of fear and vulnerability. The set is minimal and uses theatrical devices such as sound, light and character physicality to convey changes in place/time.

Cactus has been thoroughly developed with Australian Theatre for Young People, Australia’s leading youth Arts Organisation and is a work that speaks directly to the issues and fears affecting young people today. Through humour and pathos Cactus depicts:

  • The struggles of adolescence;
  • The desire to "fit in";
  • The changing nature of identity; and
  • The importance of healthy and supportive friendships.

By representing young people on stage in an entertaining and humanizing way, Cactus not only encourages discourse and opportunity to reflect on their own experiences, it also intends to galvanize them to create their own work and tell their own stories.

Cactus was featured at La Mama Theatre as part of their Summer/Autumn program. Under the direction of Katie Cawthorne (Previous Artistic Director of Canberra Youth Theatre), Cactus has been realised with an all-female creative team of young and diverse artists. This is the perfect platform to bring an important work to the people who need to see it the most.

“It is truly delightful to listen to dialogue that has been constructed with the age of the characters in mind – gone is any cliche or heavy metaphors, instead the audience is treated to Nunn’s ability to showcase these characters’ depth, humour and the complexities of teenage hood.” - Australian Arts Review


Content warnings: Recommended to 14+. Mild course language. Sexual references alluded to in storytelling.

Curriculum links: The Arts - Drama, The Arts – Theatre Studies, The Arts - Visual Communication Design, English, Capabilities – Personal and Social

Booking info: Space required D:5m W:5m H:2.5m. Access to power and darkened room required. Lighting preferred.

Please note: Councils, Venues and Community Presenters are welcome to book through the Arts & Education program. Contact the team at to confirm the program fee. 

A heartbreakingly honest coming of age story that tackles the journey from childhood to adulthood with humour and nuance.

Book Online

Metro: 2nd May 2022 to 6th May 2022
Regional: 2nd May 2022 to 6th May 2022

Madelaine Nunn
Duration: 80 minutes + 15 minutes Q&A = 95 minutes
Artforms: Children's Theatre, Theatre, Drama
Minimum fee: For Schools $1200 + GST for groups of up to 120. Additional students $10 per head.
Suitability: Year 9, Year 10, Year 11, Year 12
Term: Term 2
Booking info: Space required: D:5m W:5m H:2.5m. Access to power and darkened room required. Lighting preferred.

For more information,
contact Pippin Davies
Senior Manager, Arts & Education
[email protected]