Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon ★★ Garrick Theatre | Mar 17 - Apr 28, 2024

Eileen is a teenager whose sister has died as a result of anorexia. Her parents divorce and acquire new partners, and Eileen finds herself in a new family composed of her father, his girlfriend and the girlfriend's young daughter. Added to all this stress and upheaval, under the influence of a new friend, Eileen has her first traumatic and exploitative sexual experience. Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon is a whirlpool of teenage guilt, anger and bitter humour. The piece is a monologue delivered by Charithra Chandran while other characters appear on video. The problem is that while Eileen may listen to Britney Spears, it is hard to recognise her as a teenager. This is an adolescent who uses words like "schadenfreude" and manages to produce the well-honed anecdotes and pointed comparisons that abound here. Writer, Rosie Day, states that she wrote this piece to give voice to teenage girls and in response to the statistic that 1 in 4 of them were self-harming. While these are important concerns, the present work has a both a generic and didactic quality that never really creates an authentic individual voice. Eileen's language is highly composed and her pithy observations seem overly curated. Chandran puts in an effective performance as Eileen. Her dark humour draws a lot of laughs, and it is easy to sympathise with her pain and confusion, but it frequently seems as if the events she experiences are simply a catalogue of trauma. The ironic use of the collecting of scouting badges and the voice-over of the scout leader, Susan, also didn't work for us. It is difficult to imagine a teenager with Eileen's level of adolescent sophistication and cynicism taking that regime at all seriously. On the other hand, the set and video design for the production were excellent and the use of a video cast was extremely effective. Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon deals with some important issues, but in the end it seems to sacrifice authenticity for theatricality.

Rated: ★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Danny Kaan

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