Teenage tensions

Chatroom & Citizenship : by Enda Walsh and Mark Ravenhill, Arts Theatre Cambridge, November 17If the past is a foreign country, for old stagers like me the urban teenage world of today is a distant planet.

Chatroom & Citizenship : by Enda Walsh and Mark Ravenhill, Arts Theatre Cambridge, November 17

If the past is a foreign country, for old stagers like me the urban teenage world of today is a distant planet. But it's not a mite less valid or relevant for all that, as this production clearly shows.

The National Theatre has brought to the region two one-act plays that take us into the tensions, dynamics, language and dilemmas of the contemporary teenage experience.

The two pieces, Chatroom by the Irish playwright Enda Walsh and Citizenship by Mark Ravenhill were part of the National Theatre's Connections programme a couple of years ago. Every year the programme commissions a number of challenging scripts for performance by teenage actors around the country. These two plays were revived for performance by a top class young cast at the Cottesloe in September and they've have been touring since.


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Chatroom takes us into the world of online relationships. Six teenagers talk via cyberspace. One of them, Jim (movingly played by Steven Webb) is depressed and alienated, still embittered by his father's desertion when he was six. He's become so low that he has contemplated suicide. Hoping to find solace and help online he falls instead into the cyber clutches of two predatory teenagers who take him to the very brink of killing himself in some gloriously romantic gesture. The two - a chilling George Rainsford and Jade Williams - even want him to capture the moment on a video phone.

Another of the teenagers - Laura, played by Simone James - manages to put a stop to the nonsense and avert tragedy.

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It's well performed, disturbing, scary and funny in turns.

Mark Ravenshill's Citizenship takes its ironic title from the new subject taught at the school that the teenagers here attend. In language much of which television would have bleeped out, we're shown the torments of a youngster, Tom (Ashley Rolfe, giving a performance full of humour and passion) who's trying to discover his sexual orientation. This a world of weed heads and rap language, of hoodies, lies, bragging, temper and innocence, a place where teachers are driven to distraction by inspections, ofstedding and self doubt while the students are too wrapped up in their own traumas to care about much beyond themselves.

Done on Jonathan Rensom's brilliant two tier set with stacked chairs in skyscraper mounds, and directed by Anna Mackmin, this comedy reminds us that the teenage years may not be the happiest days of our lives.

Ivan Howlett

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