What Are They Like? – review

by Lucinda Coxon
directed by Tim Ford

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This review also appears in What’s Peen Seen.

With no intention of sounding patronising, for a company made up of 12 – 26 year olds Curve Young Company (CYC) have produced theatre to a very high standard; last year’s production of Howard Goodall’s The Dreaming a case in point – it was a beautifully staged musical with stunning vocal performances. A hard act to follow, then.

What Are They Like sees the company return to ‘pure’ drama. Lucinda Coxon wrote this for The National Theatre’s Connections Plays 2013, an event which features new writing and young theatre makers. Teenagers don the clothes and shoes of their parents, moving around inside their arch-nemeses minds to discover what it feels like to be the parents of that most tricky of species, the terrible teen.

Originally written for a cast of twelve, CYC’s performance features twenty actors making the stage a little busy at times and not helped by the additional staging on set which punctuated every entrance and exit stage left with loud clomping. On the plus side, a large cast and crew is inclusive (no less than four Assistant Directors) and a great opportunity to be involved in a production for a paying audience in a 350 seater studio theatre.

10308169_773331999357808_5017050727147914586_nWhat Are They Like is a charming piece with many a rueful laugh of recognition from the audience as they identified with the parent/teen face-offs that make up the dialogue. There is a danger it could descend into stereotype and cliche, however, nothing is dwelt on too long and the tone overall is warm and witty. Minimal use of toys from the 1970s as props was effective, and a nostalgic journey down memory lane for those of us who were children then.

The older cast members tended to play the parents and conveyed the nuances of their characters well: hiding their wild past (Jonny McClean), struggling to hide their excitement for when their children finally leave home (Kirsty Mealing) and not hiding serious illness to give opportunities for questions and to confront fear (Hannah Putnam).

Overall, this was an enjoyable piece of theatre to watch with young actors displaying maturity, not only in the characters they portrayed but in their own attitude to performance. Their joyful dancing at the end revealed just how much fun this piece must have been for them too.

What Are They Like was at Curve , 1 -3 May

Images by Pamela Raith Photography

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