Teenage Riot/Apples, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Friday 20 August 2010
Theatre for the Skins generation, Teenage Riot locks eight randy, rebellious adolescents in a shed and then makes us watch the results. For an hour. Riot is the word: beer is sprayed, clothes are torn off, family snapshots are burned and, finally, lots and lots of tomatoes are thrown. This is the latest work from the Belgian experimenters Ontroerend Goed and, as always, it's not quite theatre as we know it. Last year, they brought Internal, speed-dating for five actors and a five-strong audience, to the Fringe. Before that, it was The Smile off Your Face, in which audiences were put in wheelchairs, blindfolded and ordered to perform various tasks. This latest show, though, is closer to the teen bacchanalia of their 2008 show, Once and for All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen. There's no interaction – a little aggressive audience-baiting aside – but there's not much theatre either.
The teens file into a white box on the stage as video projections on the walls supposedly reveal what's happening inside – mainly scribbling rude words and violent cartoons on the walls, a little light bullying and a lot of snogging. There are close-ups of spotty skin and indeterminate body parts, drooling tongues and, ickily, boys dispensing sex tips.
In between rioting, the talented cast deliver confessionals – about pregnancy, divorce, body image, general angst – to camera. But it's hard to get excited about video footage and the piece only really takes off when they leave the box and perform live.
The ending draws up the battle lines between them and us. "You're not an example, you're a warning!" shout the teens, rejecting adulthood in the only way they know how – by pelting us with rotten fruit. While there's a nice anarchic energy to it, it is all a bit, well, childish. Those in the audience with teenage children don't need to be told what's it like and the rest of us don't really want to be reminded, thank you very much.
Apples is a boisterous adaptation of Richard Milward's debut novel. Set on a Middlesbrough council estate, it's the alternately shocking, hilarious and cringe-making tale of six teenagers as they experiment with drugs, sex, criminality and adulthood. John Retallack's neat, pacey production is performed with vigour and humour by an excellent young cast. Therase Neve and Scott Turnbull are particularly good as Adam and Eve, the beauty and the geek at its heart. A rollercoaster ride through adolescence in all its frantic, anxious, smeary, glittering glory.
'Teenage Riot': to 29 August (not 23). 'Apples': to 28 August (not 23) (0131 228 1404)
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