Ask Me Anything

It’s embarrassing recalling your teenager years, isn’t it? Awkward crushes, cringe-worthy fashion choices and dramatic mood swings; most of us are very happy to leave those years long in the past. The Paper Birds on the other hand have decided to not only create a show for teenagers but one also devised with the help of the thoughts, feelings and questions of teenagers. Feeling that Google lacked the human touch necessary to deal with tricky questions, they reached out to three schools and three youth theatres with the invitation to ask them anything. Ask Me Anything is their answer.

A mishmash of ideas that never fully gels.

With a smart ‘Ticket for a Teen’ fundraising scheme and careful recognition of the need for helplines and support for the young people both involved with and watching the show, it is clear that The Paper Birds have their heart in the right place. Unfortunately, the end result is a mishmash of ideas that never fully gels. The freshness and earnestness of the verbatim text they started with became lost along the way. Instead dialogue that was meant to feel improvised and off-the-cuff between the three leads felt laboured and over-rehearsed. Many of the jokes were laugh out loud funny, but perhaps only for the older audience members who readily shared in the nostalgia fest before them.

It’s certainly a challenge to appeal to a generation often more accustomed to TikTok and YouTube than a night at the theatre. However, framing modern teenage problems through the lens of their own teenage experiences seemed to be a distancing decision, as they spent more time having to explain what life was like in the 90s and 00s than actually addressing the issues the teenagers longed to have answered.

Stand out star is Rosie Doonan, whose incredible and heartfelt original compositions contributed to a gig-style atmosphere and added a real wow factor. She confessed that she wasn’t a trained actor, but this only added to her on-stage appeal, allowing her contribution to feel more natural and less forced.

Including video recordings of friends and family added some much welcomed diversity. Maureen’s reflections on motherhood and Sangeeta’s memories of her son in particular became the emotional heart of the show, confirming how important performances like Ask Me Anything can be if it in any way helps young people to learn how to express themselves or give them the confidence to talk about their feelings. As the teen seated behind me muttered upon leaving: “Wow, that got deep quick.”

However, despite reinforcing the fact that the show “is a conversation”, there was little to no opportunity to allow the mostly teenage audience to have the spotlight on them. Apart from throwing a packet of Space Raiders on stage, there was little audience interaction and teens eager to get picked for the one short on stage experience were mostly overlooked in favour of a proper grown up. Most frustrating was the finale, which sadly missed the ideal opportunity to finally bring some teenagers on stage to have their say in the conversation and create the ‘mayhem’ promised on the poster. Interaction certainly isn’t any kind of silver bullet when it comes to creating an atmosphere of inclusivity, but when attempted it should be done whole heartedly rather than sporadically.

An honourable attempt at a noble cause, Ask Me Anything proudly doesn’t have all the answers, but it also doesn’t have enough of them.

Reviews by Elanor Parker

The Space

The Black Cat

★★★
The Spire

A Christmas Carol

★★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

The Snow Queen

★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

Hansel and Gretel? (A Postmodern Pantomime)

★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

Séance

★★
The Old Market

Ask Me Anything

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Inspired by the magazine problem pages from the 90s and 00s (remember Smash Hits Magazine?), The Paper Birds asked young people of today to... well, ask them anything. Seriously... anything. With nothing off-limits, the Birds crafted their reply, in the form of this immersive theatrical experience set in their teenage bedrooms.

Most Popular See More

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Life of Pi

From £19.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets