Ask Me Anything – The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome

Reviewer: Hannah Powell

Writers: The Paper Birds

Director: Jemma McDonnell

In the time of all-consuming social media and the ultimate power of the internet, what are our young people worrying about? Does it share any similarities to our childhood of the 90s/00s? 100 young people have shared their worries and The Paper Birds are attempting to answer each and every one of them from parenting and sex to racism and suicide. This show is their reply, a show which takes inspiration from the magazine problem pages of the likes of Just Seventeen, Jackie, and Hello and explores the thoughts, wants and worries of today’s teens.

Set in the teenage bedrooms of the cast, Ask Me Anything is an eclectic mix of live music, cheesy 90s TV sitcoms and childhood diaries. The cast of Georgie Coles, Rosie Doonan and Kylie Perry work hard to set the pace and attempt to take on the personae of agony aunts with some help from their friends. Lively, entertaining, and zany are words that spring to mind although sometimes this diverse mix of genres feels disjointed and jarring.

The music is powerful and gritty setting the whole tone of the show and although she describes herself as ‘not an actor’, Doonan’s calming tones and melodic voice take you on a journey through her large variety of musical instruments.

The integration of technology in the show is done impeccably using it in an effort to bridge the gap between those who grew up in the 90s and those of the 00s. However, although it is described as a show for everyone, it can sometimes leave one feeling othered. Those who haven’t grown up with hamburger phones, teen magazines, and Ask Ally type TV programmes might struggle to relate to the nostalgia through the first quarter of the show as much as they try to make people feel otherwise.

It simultaneously feels both too long and too short, taking nearly the entirety of the first half to answer one question and then diving into the harder hitting ones but only skimming the surface. But maybe that’s the point, that we haven’t a hope of answering their questions despite the plethora of experience we claim to have; that maybe what they really want is to be listened to and have their feelings valued; to be left to make mistakes and learn from their failures, picking up the pieces when things go wrong and being that shoulder to cry on when their first partner dumps them by text.

Overall, an eclectic mix of genres and voices which, while it succeeds in entertaining and relaying an important message of listening, merely skims the surface of the sum of the deeper issues plaguing our younger generation.

Runs until 4 March 2020

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