With oceans of information available at your fingertips, is it actually any easier to find a real answer? Inspired by the magazine problem pages of their own youth, the Paper Birds’ Ask Me Anything is based on the letters the company exchanged with young people across the country. What questions did they have? Could the show provide answers?
Previewed last July and since revised, it’s set in an amalgam of teenage bedrooms (Rebecca Wood’s colourful, chaotic design is a delight), with input from an Alexa-Siri style-screen that provides commentary throughout.
The likeable, engaging cast members filter their responses through their own experience: Kylie Perry through a mock teen TV show, Georgie Coles through her old diaries, and musician Rosie Doonan through song. Recorded clips from others address the limits of that experience – for example, discussing what it’s like to be a black gay man or a biracial woman.
Well-meaning as it is, not everything coheres. The production feels occasionally disjointed and unevenly paced, and Doonan’s haunting vocals are underused. But it deftly balances humour with treating subjects from sex to suicide with sensitivity and care, and there are moments of real power. It asks not just what it is to be young today, but what is it that adults owe the younger generation, while recognising there is no easy one-size-fits-all solution.
But one message comes through clearly: at a time when young voices are drowned out in a landscape of constant online noise, it’s more important than ever to really listen.