This open air promenade performance from production company Truth about Youth explores friendship, loyalty and the challenges of a second chance. A group of teenagers are thrown into turmoil after the death of one of their crew, D, who seems to have been something of a heartbreaker and a well-loved lad about town. The audience soon build up this image of his character through monologues delivered by his lovers, friends and family who talk to the audience; a style that worked at certain moments, but at others felt clunky. After a shaky start the performance quickly improved, as the emotional hold that D held over the imaginations of these characters was at times very moving – their suffering became painfully visible after the tragic car accident that killed him.
The audience were led from location to location, sometimes by stewards and at others by the actors themselves, who initiated changes of scene through conversations and interaction with other characters. For me, the highlight of the evening was when an argument erupted between two characters across the busy the Kennington Road, a scene which totally achieved the violence and tension of a public display of aggression. Even passers-by were slowing down to watch, with the huddle of audience members clutching programmes being the only clue that this wasn’t a genuine moment. Sometimes the transitions were clumsy, though, as characters would storm off whilst talking on their mobile, leaving their audience behind. I found myself jogging at points in order to catch the dialogue, which could have been avoided if the actors were able to slow down – although perhaps this was intended to create excitement.
I cannot help but think that a lighter story line would have helped this young company, which clearly has an eye for comedy and can handle the difficulties of performing in busy, public areas. In performance spaces such as the one it had chosen, one cannot control the audience’s attention wholly and it would have worked better if the company could have embraced this as a feature of their performance, including the public rather than pretending they weren’t there. Ultimately this story could have been staged very well in a theatre, and I didn’t think that the expansive and open-aired form they had chosen was particularly suited to the intimate, character-driven plot. However, as the piece developed I found myself empathising increasingly with the story and moved by some superb acting and competent writing. This is a real achievement from Truth about Youth which certainly has the talent and initiative to change the perceptions of youth culture through theatre.