Births, Deaths & Marriages

For as long as there has been something as recognisable as a “young person” there have been works of fiction that bemoan the horrible aimlessness of a “lost generation”. As far back as Rebel Without a Cause we’ve been fixated on this strange thing known as adolescence and allowed ourselves to wallow in teen angst.

The overwhelming message of the show is incredibly empowering - a rallying cry to not fear change but to accept it and use it to better yourself.

Creating a piece of work in this vein is thus fraught with many pitfalls a budding company can fall into. Luckily, People You Know avoid the common traps of the genre and have created something truly wonderful. Births, Deaths & Marriages is a nuanced, funny and often times poignant look at becoming an adult and the decisions that force that change.

The play follows four young people over the course of one night as they all face a myriad of problems ranging from proposals, babies and depression. The young cast are the centerpiece of this devised production and they really do shine, demonstrating an incredible talent and energy. All actors switch roles with ease and never once miss a beat. A stellar tech team complements them. There is a large screen onstage that runs video concurrently with the action. In the wrong hands this might seem gimmicky and even slow the show down, but here it is incredibly effective in helping demonstrate the inner thoughts of the characters and in aiding the progression of the story.

The devised nature of the piece shows in the show’s structure. It is split into several segment, each segment dealing with an individual character and the dilemma he or she faces. This structure gives all the actors the chance to demonstrate their talents. Displays of physical theatre also work incredibly well in imparting the play’s message.

The characters are never portrayed as stupid, ignorant or whiny teenagers but as normal young people caught up in the difficult and troubling transition into adulthood. The overwhelming message of the show is incredibly empowering - a rallying cry to not fear change but to accept it and use it to better yourself. I, for one, left the theatre feeling all the better for having seen the show.

The only real issue is that the end loses some of the momentum that has previously been built up and the delivery of the play's message can occasionally slip dangerously close to the type of moralising that you’d get from an overeager youth group that visits secondary schools. The show does always quickly get back on track though.

Part of the aimless angst of adolescence that I talked about earlier may stem from the weird limbo a lot of young people exist in - no longer children, they have new responsibilities and expectations without the freedoms to match. This show is all about grasping at that freedom to choose and also about dealing with the consequences that come with it. This is a production I recommend you go out of your way to see.

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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Performances

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The Blurb

Four young people, four big decisions... one long night! Adult life isn't working out for them and if they don't do something about it they might be stuck forever. Trapped in the life they thought they wanted, hoping it gets better, but not really doing anything about it... Like planning how you'd spend the lottery jackpot when you didn't even play. A call to action for a lost generation from the company that produced the triple award-nominated Party Piece (TotalTheatre.org.uk, Stage, Holden Street Theatres). Time to grow up and take charge.

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