Theatre review: 'Once and for All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen' and 'Slick'

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ARE the kids all right? The answer, to judge by these two thrilling final shows of the Traverse 2008 festival season, is that they might be – but if they are, it's little thanks to us, the confused and self-serving older generation.

Once And For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen – a new show from Flemish companies Ontroerend Goed and Kopergietery – features 13 performers aged between 14 and 18, who have created the work with director Alexander Devriend. The irony of the title is that, in verbal terms, they don't actually tell us much. In a prologue, Charlotte points out that anything they could say would be a clich and so what follows is largely physical theatre, intercut with a few telling short monologues and dialogue scenes.

The kids sit in a chaotic line on a range of old chairs, like a badly-behaved school class. They play like the children they still sometimes are; they dance, they fight, they experiment with sex and drugs and they mock the very idea of the perfect nuclear family.

The whole event is stunningly well choreographed, with a deceptive apparent casualness; the action is driven by a terrific choice of music, both rock and classical. And by the end we somehow feel we've come to know many of these young characters with a close, physical immediacy which reminds us, on our very skin, that for all their striving for independence, young people in their teens still need physical warmth all around them, and plenty of hugs.

As for little Malcolm Biggar – the ironically-named short-arse hero of young Scottish company Vox Motus's new show, Slick – it's clear that hugs have been in short supply for him since birth. Played, like all the characters around him, by a chubby, short-legged, Cabbage Patch Kid-style puppet with the face of a live, grown-up actor, little Malcolm (aged nine and three quarters) is the unwanted child of a nasty failed stockbroker and fat, selfish Mum in a designer tracksuit.

When a gusher of hyper-priced crude oil suddenly emerges from the toilet-bowl of their flat, he's left alone with his trusty skateboard to deal with the greed, curiosity and suspicion of evil, sex-crazed landlord Jerko Dreich and his mad old mother in the attic.

The story of this devised show, with script advice from Stephen Greenhorn, is frankly barking, although the consistency of its savage portrait of the adult world often leaves the audience gasping. What Slick has, though, by the oily bucketload, is a faultless, fast-paced, brilliant sense of style, and of how to create a cutting-edge comic-strip show for theatre that combines the pathos of Oliver Twist with the savage satire of Viz magazine.

Jordan Young's performance as the face of wee Malcolm is beyond praise and the rest of the four-strong cast give him terrific support, in a show whose whole creative team deserve a standing ovation.

Once and For All. Until 24 August. Today 9:30pm. Slick. Until 24 August. Today 4:30pm.

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