Preview: Burn/Chatroom/Citizenship, Cottesloe: National Theatre, London

All the stages of teenage life
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The Independent Culture

A trio of plays to be performed together at the Cottesloe Theatre focus on the lives of teenagers. Commissioned by the National Theatre's Shell Connections initiative, where established playwrights pen original works for young actors, the plays depict a range of issues confronting teenagers, from peer pressure and loneliness to sexual identity.

Anna Mackmin, who directed the plays, was keen to translate them to an adult arena. "They are very different plays from very different writers, but they are all for young actors. It would be great if there were a new audience attracted to them. Everybody knows what it feels like to change, no matter what age you are. The plays are about that moment when people learn to articulate their ideas and how, as you begin to be defined as an adult, you start to make a community."

In Deborah Gearing's Burn, 12 adolescents narrate the story of a friend's death, and their roles within their social group are explored. In Enda Walsh's ominous Chatroom, two bored chatroom devotees conspire to induce the suicide of a lonely and damaged cyberspace confidant.

A bit depressing? "Actually, they're all very funny," explains Mackmin. "They mix tragedy and comedy acutely and there are a lot of extremes, which mirror the extremities of adolescence. Citizenship is very funny indeed."

This third piece, by Mark Ravenhill, is about a 15-year-old boy discovering his sexuality. Confusion about the gender of an individual he keeps kissing in a recurring dream leads to a string of humorous escapades.

And if you thought three repetitive endorsements of teenage angst might be overkill, think again. The pieces are deftly varied and punctuated by stylistic and thematic shifts. "The moods vary rapidly within each piece, even line to line. This is sharp stuff, an evening for anyone who is excited by theatre," says Mackmin.

In repertory to 3 June (020-7452 3000)

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