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Instructions of a Teenage Armageddon | Garrick Theatre

Girl (Charitha Chandran) has a name other than Girl, but not in the show’s programme, so I’ll keep faith with the production. There’s plenty of dark humour, and even the largely youthful audience at the performance I attended were left a little stunned by Girl’s sheer irreverence. A case in point comes after a visit to a funeral director following the death of Girl’s 17-year-old sister, Olive. The director, mostly out of curiosity, or so Girl deduces (is she an unreliable narrator?), wants to know the cause of death. Girl’s emotions are as mixed as a bereaved person would reasonably be expected to be, but she answers plainly that Olive died from anorexia nervosa, before adding, “At least the coffin will be light!”, hoping to elicit some kind of response from her shocked father.

Charithra Chandran - credit Danny Kaan.
Charithra Chandran – credit Danny Kaan.

The monologue is devoid of generation-specific jargon, in the sense that I don’t think older people would be overly confused by Girl’s storytelling. Her parents drift apart and eventually call time on their marriage, in time finding new partners. But Girl’s annoyance isn’t so much directed at her possible future stepparents as it is at ten-year-old Lottie, the daughter of Girl’s father’s new girlfriend Sarah. Chatty and boisterous, Lottie still enjoys the school day, the rough and tumble of secondary school still to come in her life.

Technically, the ‘Armageddon’ of the show’s title never comes to fruition, but that is one of the points Girl wants to put across: the problems teenagers encounter are far from the end of the world. As she looks back over the last few years of her life, there were some horrific moments – a long and detailed account of a date that went very, very wrong had seemingly lasting consequences, and almost certainly won’t be something to laugh about in years or decades to come. But even that is something she overcame and bounced back from, and while the show has plenty of lighter moments, it also grapples with multiple contemporary issues that affect girls these days.

The accounts of self-harm are harrowing, for instance, and in this rollercoaster ride of emotions, Girl’s attendance at Scouts provides her with a weekly focus point. Her forthrightness and borderline abrasiveness are, it seems, defence mechanisms in the face of being avoided by school peers (rather than outright bullying, they are unsure of how to even approach Girl in the aftermath of Olive’s death).

The set (Jasmine Swan) looks rather compact on a West End stage. Girl’s bedroom is immaculately tidy, and it’s not something that is ever discussed in the monologue. Videos periodically pop up, introducing three other characters, Mum (Shelley Conn), Dad (Philip Glenister) and Girl’s friend Ella (Isabella Pappas), plus a voiceover from ‘Sensible Scout Leader Susan’ (Maxine Peake), give Girl some breathing space, and allows the audience to hear different voices. At the same time, however, Charithra Chandran doesn’t quite have the opportunities she might otherwise have had to demonstrate her versatility in impersonating a large number of roles.

Girl often feels unseen and unheard – and in a final ironic twist, she fails to pay due care and attention to Lottie, who cries out for help just like she did previously. Not always an easy watch, there’s some superb storytelling in this intriguing portrait of teenage living.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

She was a 17-year-old girl, the only God she believed in was Taylor Swift

After her sister’s untimely death by a Yorkshire Pudding, a funny teenage misfit begrudgingly joins a flailing scout group to help her navigate the kicks and punches of adolescence with varying degrees of success.

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon is a rollercoaster ride through youth. Whether you are a young person, know a young person, or simply were a young person once – it’s time to rip up the rule book and reconnect with your younger self.

Garrick Theatre
2 Charing Cross Road, London, United Kingdom, WC2H 0HH

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