We live in an age where climate change, terrorism, suicide rates, gender and confidence issues are discussed as much as what type of tea one would like in the afternoon. For a young person, it is difficult to know where to fit in this chaotic modern world. In their touring play, ‘Next Thing’, the award-winning youth company theatre The Young Pretenders encapsulate these worries. The play is an energetic cacophony of youthful voices full of wisdom, discussing serious world issues with a lick of refreshing humour.
Inspired by the Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari’s, ‘Homo Deus’, The Young Pretenders draw upon the ethical issues of today in a passionate and powerful manner. On the evening of the 7th of May, Exeter Phoenix opened its curtains to twenty young performers from the Exeter community. The play began with the actors swarming around the stage wearing a rainbow of colours in between white sheets of plastic with a minimalist seesaw in the centre.
From the first scene onwards, the audience were hypnotised by the young actors sheer energy, humour and engagement. As the cast glistened across the stage in a perfectly choreographed manner, they recalled the history of homo-sapiens. They then began the dialogue between themselves and the audience with their worry that they will become irrelevant, a niggling fear that both you and I share.
an energetic cacophony of youthful voices full of wisdom, discussing serious world issues with a lick of refreshing humour
Although the cast did exist of young people, they were no ordinary school children. In fact, they had the ability to make the children in the audience under institutional practices feel liberated and free from the shackles of rules and orders. The cast gave a refreshing middle finger to the system, creating a swearing guideline, allowing thirty swear words to be given all together, a moderate number in comparison to Gordon Ramsay.
By allowing themselves to speak freely, they positioned themselves on the same wavelength as the adults of society. They made the audience aware that the UK has the second lowest rate of happiness but adults claim that the young of today live in an easier world than they did. As they questioned this, I too began to question it:
Are we really happy? Are we a generation of over thinkers?
Their discussions of mental health were talked about in a refreshing, humorous way, showing one actor getting into a wetsuit to try and find the world but then realising that he cannot swim and needs help in his overly large flippers. The issue of money, not finding love and the fear of mortality was touched upon without shame.
As a break from the seriousness of the topics, a small but mighty member of the cast called Finn would leap upon one of the cast’s shoulders and discuss ‘Finn’s Footnotes’, his thoughts of the day. The questions were the important ones that we all possess:
“Are old people’s farts dusty?”
“What if boobs were flowers?… What would this mean for people with hay fever?”
The play ended with a standing ovation from the audience and left one feeling less alone with our insular worries about the world. As young and older adults alike, ‘Next Thing’ raised our childhood insecurities and transformed them into positive glue that brings together those who are struggling in this mad twenty-first century.