*Untitled is a new, inventive digital piece that captures the exuberance and anxiety of being a young person in such an uncertain world, and how these feelings have been intensified by a summer of isolation.
Over the course of half an hour, a mosaic of teenage lockdown life emerges; the mundane, the profound, the absurd and the joyful presented side-by-side. Performed by a group of young people who had never met before, connected by their common participation in Zest Theatre’s Youthquake, but differing in many ways from each other, *Untitled provides a powerful sense of community, in the face of encroaching loneliness.
Resilience is at the heart of the piece, with many of the young performers exploring the societal pressures to conform to the restrictive, binary expectations of gender, race and sexuality that the world places on them. There are heart-warming and heart-breaking moments alike, from the instant bond formed between several performers over their love of drag, to the sense of hurt and injustice evident in a black teenager’s recounting of being handcuffed by police.
In the face of this, the musical sequence entitled ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ provides a strong rejection to conformity – celebrating the individuality of each performer and their ability to form connections across their differences. This point, however, does become a little stretched later on. In a speech using ready salted crisps, and whether or not people like them, as a somewhat reductive metaphor for all differences, there is a risk of belittling the histories of oppression in which many differences are rooted.
There are also many things that they all share in common. Another theme that comes powerfully to the fore is the challenge young people face to insert themselves meaningfully into the adult world. Discussing the many pressing issues threatening the world the next generation will inherit, especially climate catastrophe, holds two key revelations – both of which challenge the lazy narrative that portrays young people as uninterested in politics, in the wider world. Firstly, throughout the piece it is clear that young people are intimately aware of the political landscape with which they navigate on a daily basis, both on an individual and a global scale. Secondly, and more troublingly, from the accounts of their parents expectations of what it means to be an adult, emerges the understanding that it is only by suppressing these concerns, by complying with the adult status quo, that they can be taken seriously.
These understandings only make the connections that are formed and celebrated in *Untitled more valuable and significant. In the in-between spaces of the screen, amongst the awkwardness and confusions of Zoom communication, the increased fusion of performance of existence in *Untitled pays tribute to the creativity and determination with which the challenges of a generation can be confronted together.
*Untitled is playing online until further notice. For more information, see the Zest Theatre website.