Artistic Director: Lucy Hirst
Reviewer: Georgie Bird
Inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s best-selling book Homo Deus A Brief History of Tomorrow, The Next Thing covers a wide range of issues young people face in a thought-provoking and engaging manner. The Young Pretenders are a talented group of young actors ranging from ages 11 to 17, filling the stage dressed in a variety of colourful outfits, matching the energetic nature of the play.
The Young Pretenders start the play chanting in unison to a drum beat, shortly interrupted by them running around the stage. When they regroup they come right to the edge of the stage with many of the cast breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to members of the audience. This formula is used for most of the play, furthering audience engagement. At times, the chanting can be hard to comprehend, but this becomes more coherent further into the play as the audience grows more accustomed. This style creates an intimate performance that is slightly disconcerting at times, but is a credit to the raw honesty of the play.
One of the great things about The Next Thing is that all the cast members are given a chance to shine. Impressively, it is the youngest members of the cast that have the best stage presence, which is a quite a feat given their young age. A good example of this is when the youngest boy is put on the shoulders of another cast member and asks random questions, a particularly memorable one being ‘If breasts were flowers, what would that mean for people with hay fever?’ These questions provide some lovely comic moments.
There is a particularly moving section on happiness, which likens happiness to a glass ceiling. This is represented by a plastic sheet that the cast briefly pull over themselves. There is then a beautifully imaginative description of climbing a ladder to happiness, rudely interrupted by a cast member getting slimed! A fitting metaphor for how suffocating the concept of happiness can be, and how much pressure there is on young people to be happy.
The Next Thing is unflinchingly ambitious, and manages to fit a huge amount of material in the space of an hour and 20 minutes. The struggle to find self-acceptance is wonderfully portrayed by The Young Pretenders, and the busy nature of the play reflects the overwhelming amount of problems young people have to deal with. The Next Thing has a huge amount of enthusiasm and successfully captures many of the anxieties young people have. The fast pace ensures boredom is not an option, however, this does result in some of the dialogue becoming lost in the chaotic nature of the play. The Next Thing is overall, a success, with insightful dialogue combined with brilliant acting which gives a much, needed platform to the young people of today to ensure their voice is heard.
Reviewed on 6 May 2018 | Image: Contributed