The REP, Birmingham, Thursday 9th November, 2017
Millennials are terrible, aren’t they? Spoiled, impatient, thinking they’re special… This new piece from writer Susie Sillett shows us three sides of the coin (if that’s possible!) in this monologue sequence engagingly performed by Phoebe Frances Brown.
The first section concerns employment or should I say ‘employment’ as our protagonist details her exploitation in unpaid internships, illegally long shifts – it’s no wonder she and her peers are still living with their parents. The character both recognises and accepts her lot as though this is the way it is and shall be forevermore – and she makes it clear she’s not complaining. She daren’t! Not while she wants to continue on the way up.
The middle section is a cringe-making dinner date with an old friend who is getting married. This one quickly flips into something painful to hear, and painful to experience, as our protagonist recounts the agonies of online friendships, and how deeply that ‘unfollowing’ or ‘unfriending’ can hurt. The modern world forges new kinds of relationships and associations through social media – new behaviours and mores have to be negotiated. But it all does nothing to assuage her loneliness. It’s an incisive swipe at society, when all these new connections serve to keep us isolated and alone.
The third part finds our protagonist keeping watch beside her dying granny’s hospital bed. This is the most emotionally affecting section and is more widely reflective of the nature of life. The writing opens up beyond the personal as our protagonist considers her place in the world, being born at this time, the environment she is inheriting and the problems her generation have to sort out. Stark comments like ‘no matter what I do, it’s never enough to compensate the damage I do by being alive’. She can’t make sense of being alive and her reactions and attitude are thoroughly credible. Forged by what previous generations have done, she is trapped in a world she didn’t make. And she is sorry for existing.
The show has a strong green message: the seas are full of plastic, of the detritus of our consumerist society. Our protagonist is most strident in her horror and revulsion, her anger and frustration with what has been done to the world.
An electrifying performance from Phoebe Frances Brown; director Jennifer Davis prevents things from becoming static in the simple, circular space, giving us rises and falls, changes in pace and mood to bring out all the colours of the writing. Sorcha Corcoran’s set – a chair in a circle, ringed by mounds of paper – becomes more relevant as the show goes on, reminiscent of arctic landscapes… Alex Boucher’s lighting and Iain Armstrong’s sound design support the performer and help the audience imagine the various settings of the stories.
It all adds up to a taut production, a snapshot of life for young adults, with laughs aplenty and pain in abundance – and isn’t it a particularly British thing for those feeling the most awkward, those in the most pain, those who are pointing out what is wrong, to be the ones to say sorry?