Theatre review: What Are They Like? - Traverse

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DURING last year’s Edinburgh Festival, Traverse audiences were delighted by Chris Goode’s Fringe-First-winning show Monkey Bars, which reflected on the experience of children by putting their words into the mouths of adult actors.

What Are They Like? - Traverse

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Now, in the same space, there’s a chance to watch something like the reverse process, as a fine young company from the Lyceum Youth Theatre, beautifully directed by Christie O’Carroll, speak the words of parents with teenage children, in playwright Lucinda Coxon’s 30-minute NT Connections piece What Are They Like? and once again, the effect is extraordinarily powerful and poignant.

As the play begins, the cast strip off their school shirts and ties, and put on the cardigans, wedding rings and office clothes of adult life; then they speak, entering into the minds of parents, as they try to get their teenagers out of bed in the morning, through their exams, and round the various rocks on which their young lives might shipwreck.

“I don’t know why I’m making it all sound so sad,” says one dad, but as he acknowledges, it’s really the transience of parenthood that does it – turn around and they’re gone, perhaps to play someone like you in a show at the Traverse.

The evening starts in slightly gentler style, as LYT offers up rehearsed readings of half-a-dozen tiny plays by members of the Traverse’s young Scribble group, aged 14-17. The performance sometimes looks like a crash course in the knowledge that script-in-hand in reading is not as easy as professional actors make it look. Yet even so, there’s an intriguing recurring theme around the idea of reality as subjective, suggestible, unreliable; and one or two sparks of terrific writing, including a tiny abstract piece by Tallulah Sanderson about a young girl resisting everyday interrogation, and Eilidh Mackinnon’s poignant dialogue for two young hospital patients, The Brightest Star In The Sky.