Glitter Punch isn’t exactly your average teen romance story. It tells the story of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, but as standard as that may sound it will still leave you saying, “Oh!” by the time you reach the unexpected twist at the end.
Lucy Burke has written a story that, for the most part, seems like something any 16-year-old, like protagonist Molly, has probably felt or hope to feel in the future. Molly (Charlotte Salkind) is a teenager living in Salford who falls for John (Hadley Smith) while smoking outside college. She narrates the story in an awkward yet honest and often very humorous manner.
Salkind and Smith are a perfect pair. She, like most teenagers, feels like a bit of an odd ball – full of self-doubt and anxiety – whereas John seems more together with his gentle, monosyllabic delivery, and only ever the hint of a slightly sad smile. In their own way, each character is flawed but those flaws are what makes them fit together like a puzzle.
The show takes a rather intense look at teenage love, with Molly and John’s relationship sometimes coming across as a bit too advanced for a 16-year-old. However, despite constantly claiming to be unable to say what she feels, her definition of being in love as a ‘glitter punch’ perfectly describes the innocent, butterflies-in-stomach, always-wanting-to-be-together sort of love.
Other than romance, Burke manages to slip in themes that are almost considered tropes in any teen story. Drugs and sex make a brief appearance but two issues in particular are delivered in a thought-provoking monologue.
Firstly, Molly feels pressure to lose her virginity. To her, losing her virginity is a way of gaining normality – she doesn’t understand why losing something is such a big deal, comparing it to losing her phone twice in one day. The other issue is perhaps more shied away from, and that’s mental health. It’s never explicitly said but Molly appears to suffer from depression and anxiety, and Burke expertly manages to deliver a message to her audience about how they may think they are the only ones to feel like they do. But in fact, they are not.
Glitter Punch is the perfect piece of fringe theatre. It’s honest and relatable. And I wish it had been there 10 years ago, when I too was going through the awkward teenage phase.
Glitter Punch plays King’s Head Theatre until 25 February. For more information and tickets, see here.