Monday, 27 October 2008

Once And For All...We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen.

I bumped into John Retallack at the BAC on Saturday. His Company of Angels have spent the last few years pioneering exciting and relevant theatre for a teenage audience and he recommended this show, which he'd just seen.

So I went this evening and got exactly what I was expecting. The piece is astonishingly well directed and the teenage company do a fantastically tight job with passionate investment in their material, but I still left feeling irritated.

The premise is that adolescents aren't understood and that adults either condemn them or fail to recognise them for who they are. So we have an hour here of dares, rituals, excess, occasional vulnerable monologue and confrontation, both through the 'what you looking at' stares from the stage and the assertive territorial shouting. The real problem for me is I don't see the debate.

Teenagers do explore the world, including their sexuality, with daring energy, they do trash things and they can be self-destructive. The body and brain wants to leave childhood, but have nowhere to go. It's a fascinating and exciting time. Intelligent adults do understand this inevitable rebellion and guide with a light touch to enable children to find their own way, but this isn't the same as being submissive towards what can also be an arrogant and anti-social culture.

The show is created by Ontroerend Goed, who work out of Belgium, which may help to explain the shows unapologetic front.

I've often felt relationships between adults and children in the low countries are generally good, guided by liberal tolerance. In my mind it's a society where the storm of teen spirit is recognised as a journey to adulthood. Watching this brave company made we wonder whether in Britain one of the problematic outcomes of denying expressive rights to young people is that many of us never fully reach maturity as adults. Responsibility is not worn easily in the UK and this makes the ground on which teenagers operate a very crowded site of unfulfiled dreams and resentment. Perhaps youth culture is not the problem, but our inability to value confident adults.

I hope in some ways this piece is about demystifying adolescence and will help slow the accelerating demonisation of young people by offering honest autobiography.

No comments: