Review: Become A Teenager Again, At The National Theatre

Brainstorm, National Theatre ★★★★★

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 28 months ago
Review: Become A Teenager Again, At The National Theatre Brainstorm, National Theatre 5
© Camilla Greenwell

On arrival for the latest show at the NT's Temporary Space (aka the red wooden shed next to its excellent espresso bar) friendly teenagers press yellow cards into our hands and ask us to fill them out, answering 'What would you tell your younger self?'.

The chance to wax anonymously lyrical on this subject is a great way to start an evening exploring the inner workings of the teenage brain. The question holds a universal fascination because who wouldn't want to go back and teach their teenage selves a few hard life lessons?

Except Brainstorm is a play about remembering what it is like to be a teenager, rather than remonstrating against all the the things they get wrong.

In this fast-paced, virtually plot-less celebration of 21st century teenage life, a bunch of 12 talented young people, hailing from Islington Community Theatre, take to the stage to tell us what it's all about.

Mixing narration on the individual characters within their group, impromptu dance routines and live WhatsApp chats they whisk us through the basics of their experiences and give us a science lesson in the process — explaining the physical, electrical and chemical differences between the teenage and adult brain.

Brainstorm is refreshingly entertaining and informative, rooted as it is in devised drama (directed by Ned Glasier and Emily Lim) taken straight from the mouths of young people. They own the space, their story and our avid attention.

The play highlights the beauty in the chaos of teenage minds as exemplified in Charlie Damigos's exploded bedroom of a set. The world the kids inhabit is delightfully messy, replete with discarded clothes, celebrity posters, dreamcatchers (yes apparently they still exist), computer games, make-up, shaken up energy drinks and a scattering of gummy bears.

All the while the voice of their parents hang in the air, impersonated using a microphone — again, it's the kids themselves who do this.

The key to the success of this charming cast is that they take every effort to make this fun. They push us out of our comfort zone by asking us to take part in a game of Never Have I Ever, and break into dance to banging tunes, making it tempting to get up and join.

Interspersed with this are more sedate moments where they hint at the familiar struggles of wanting their own space, fighting with their parents, feeling misunderstood and, of course, the tantalising urge to rebel.

The group don't just remind us what it is like to be young — they actively make us want to return to that time. Full of energy and more than a little cheeky humour, their wisdom and self-confidence is impressively beyond their years.

Brainstorm is on at the National Theatre (Temporary Space) Southbank, SE1 9PX  until 25 July. Tickets £15 - £20. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 31 March 2016