Reviewer: Jo Beggs
We may not feel like it a lot of the time but we’re in charge. Adults that is. It’s no wonder that teenagers regularly whine about it ‘not being fair’, because it’s not.
Nightwalks With Teenagers is part of the wider ‘social-specific’ movement created by Canadian urban planner and performance artist Darren O’Donnell. O’Donnell’s work with his company Mammalian Diving Reflex, which is performed by local teenagers around the world, is a chance for the kids to take back a bit of power.
You might think that they’d revel in this. Pass back some of the grief we give them. In fact, what they create as an hour and a half’s entertainment for the ‘adults’ is a freely given and generous gift.
We meet on the forecourt of the Lowry where the group are dancing, laughing and smiling – a lot, and we play a game called ‘Ninja’ that’s half drama exercise, half party game. It’s a great start because it brings out the competitive in everyone while warming us up for the energetic time ahead. At the end there’s a three-way tie between three of the teens and they agree to ‘all win’ which suggests that it’s us that are the competitive ones.
We’re taken at a swift pace off into Salford Quays, along the waterfront, down alleys between houses, across bits of wasteland and car parks. While we walk, we chat, they ask us where we’re from, why we came, they tell us about their problems and their dreams. Periodically we stop and play a game, watch a micro-performance, enjoy refreshments on picnic blankets while being asked a series of personal questions (teens, it seems, are horrified that you’re so old you can’t remember who your first date was with). At the end, after being given balloons and sweets and glittered-up cheeks, we sit in a pavilion, tell ghost stories and sing together.
The Quays is perhaps not the ideal environment for this. Somewhere more traditionally urban would provide a better backdrop. Most of the young people live some distance away so the locality is also as alien to them as it is to the rest of us. While they’re in charge it would be nice to be on their patch, in the places they know.
Nightwalks With Teenagers may not sound as much of a risk as some of O’Donnell’s earlier works. Haircuts By Children– which is exactly what it sounds like – draws only the bravest audience members. What you might not be ready for, though, is the casting off of grown-upness thatTeentalitarianism demands, something that we rarely get the permission – from others or ourselves – to do.
Runs until 20 May2018 | Image: Shows previous London Production