A fast and furious explosion of angst hits the stage as Ontroerend Goed’s Teenage Riot erupts with great passion.
The Belgian performance group is notorious for its challenging and certainly different approach to theatre.
Using multimedia (most appropriate given Yoof’s reliance on screen technology), the nine youngsters give the audience a swift insight to those teenage years and issues in case they had been forgotten. And each generation adds in its own new dimensions – here notably the love of violent computer games and self-harm.
A white cube dominates with most of the action taking place inside it but filmed and projected onto the external wall.
It is hard not to read more into producer Richard Jordan’s piece than is probably there. And I feel sorry for my own teenager, who accompanied me on the night, as I feel I have somehow cheated her of believing in her individuality - instead seeing that in fact teenagers live down to clichés again and again. She recognised the stereotypes, the values and even the inside of the ‘den’ - although her mates have more road signs! But didn’t we all?
Perhaps designed to shock, but perhaps more to inform – I am uncertain of the aim of the piece. We have all been teenagers – some longer ago than others – but surely our memories are still fresh and we can recognise the self-indulgent anguish, the bullying, the comradery, the conformity, that burgeoning sexuality and misplaced sense of obligation, and the rebellion against the older generation.
It isn’t something we need reminding of is it? And do we need telling what our kids are up to in the garden shed?
The back stories are also typical: those with reason to rebel are perhaps the quietest while those portraying an ‘ordinary’ home life are upset because they don’t have ADHD or a record contract.
At times there seems to be an expectation that the audience will be made up exclusively of middle-class, middle-aged smug bores – the last people (most of) the kids would want to become - but there was a good helping of youngsters in our audience, which blunted the venom, and took the malice out of pelting the audience (or at least a video of the audience) with tomatoes.
With no writer named, I wonder if this started as an improv by the youngsters. Interestingly though when I asked the cast why the recurring theme of plastic bags over their heads (which did not feature at all in my day and I haven’t observed among my three teenagers or the hordes that populate my garden), two different members had two different takes on it.
The cast give their all and clearly believe wholeheartedly in the ‘message’ but I am not convinced there is really a message to impart.