The problem with the idea of leaving Instructions For A Teenage Armageddon is that its target audience is hardly likely to heed very much of it. The unnamed narrator (Rosie Day), who I will simply call Girl, goes on a rollercoaster journey where things seldom, if ever, work in her favour.
Nothing new there – I was a furious youngster in my teenage years: Girl is relatively civilised by comparison, and she does at least attend Scouts on a weekly basis, achieving a large number of ‘badges’.
Her parents had split up some time after her sister Olive, four years older than her, passed away. Death being the critical incident in the play, it is the aftermath that was most difficult of all to deal with – the classmates and other acquaintances at school, for instance, who didn’t know how to respond, so didn’t respond at all, leaving her feeling shunned. The story is certainly very detailed, but never laboriously so, and with a dry humour commensurate with cynical youth. When her parents find new partners, Girl discovers her father’s new girlfriend Sarah has a ten-year-old daughter, Lottie, whom Girl finds insufferable thanks to Lottie’s Pollyanna-esque demeanour.
Things became reasonably blissful for Girl that in the back of my mind a growing thought started to form – namely, that there will be another incident that will plunge this young lady back into the depths of despair. But I didn’t anticipate the nature of it, and again it is what happens after the event that is just as difficult for Girl as the event itself. She wanted – no, needed – counselling, and having sought it, she was told there are no appointments available for months.
Clearly not every teenager is silently sulky, and let’s face it, if this one was, it wouldn’t make for very good theatre in any event. This intelligent and articulate Girl provides some excellent insights. An example: she notes that very few people want to know the real, full and detailed answer to, “How are you?”, resulting in what she calls the “most bland word in the English language, ‘Fine’”. On one level, some of the issues encountered are in the realm of ‘first world problems’, but on another, the narrative brings up some topics worth talking about.
Why is it that so many youngsters, especially in the digital era with access to an infinite amount of information, support and advice, feel as though there are few if any opportunities to seek assistance with the various problems they face? The support is out there, they (and we) are told. You are never alone. You need not suffer in silence. And so on. Yet an attempt to obtain help more often than not results in being passed from organisation to organisation, as portrayed in ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’ in the musical West Side Story – different authorities have their views as to what the problem even is, let alone what the person seeking help needs to do.
Rosie Day does a magnificent job holding the attention of the audience on her own for a solid ninety minutes. There’s dancing, there are props galore (with a number of pegs and shelves at the back of the stage that slowly but surely fill up), and there’s the voicing of various characters and the portrayal of their mannerisms that tends to come with the best of solo performances. Thoughtful and amusing in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Miss-trusted. Miss-treated. Miss you. Welcome to a miss-spent youth. Eileen’s sister just died while eating a Yorkshire pudding. Ironic as she rarely eats; well, ate.
Instructions For A Teenage Armageddon is a call to arms for young women everywhere, and questions why society isn’t watching out for our girls as they navigate fading friendships, f**ked up families and forging a trail through adolescence.
TRIGGER AND AGE WARNING:
Instructions For A Teenage Armageddon explores themes relating to eating disorders, emotional abuse and sexual violence, and is therefore not recommended for children. If you wish to discuss further before you see this play, please email email@example.com.
RUNNING TIME: 80 MINUTES, NO INTERVAL
17 – 29 FEBRUARY, 2020 at 7.30PM