Two years after Oxford Dictionaries chose “youthquake” as its word of the year, Zest Theatre presents a manifesto for the term in a production powered by the frustrations and hopes of Generation Z.
The creators interviewed more than 800 young people around the country; the resulting show unites local teenagers with two professional performers in a verbatim representation of their concerns.
Topics explored include discrimination, climate change, knife crime, self-esteem and Brexit. It’s more than a show with a one-hour run time can manage, but director Toby Ealden handles these voices with respect, while Guy Connelly’s sound design keeps things moving: songs are formed from chopped up samples of teenagers talking and some impressively unsettling feedback screeches.
Becky (Claire Gaydon) wants to share a 12-step programme of advice for today’s adolescents, a would-be “inspirational” presentation full of ineffectual “stat attack” moments. Her presence is balanced by Harris Cain’s reluctant teen. Though the young performers, from Newham Sixth Form College, don’t pass as disaffected audience members for long, it’s still satisfying to watch things deviate from the plan, as the show’s message is sabotaged from the inside by its non-compliant target audience.
This all plays out on Verity Quinn’s pink, over-bright set, strikingly lit by Ben Pacey in shades of pink and green. The high point of the show, though, is a piece of movement using phones inside shining, light-studded cases, that has the cast scrolling, posing and clutching them close to their chests.