Rosie Day’s play highlights not only the confusion and pain of growing up but also the struggle of dealing with grief as a young person in a tight and engaging way.

(c)Mark Senior

Running at just 75 minutes long, it is extremely impressive with just how much ground that Rosie Day covers in Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon – particularly given that each subject is so expertly interwoven that it is really hard not to be thoroughly absorbed in Eileen’s story.

Taking audiences from the death of her sister thanks in no small part to a Yorkshire Pudding to the present day, Eileen’s story covers feelings of anger, guilt, pain, grief and loneliness as she tries to navigate life without her best friend and confidante while growing up. But what Rosie Day does so well through her writing and performance is to bring an element of humour to proceedings to really enhance the message behind what she is expressing as well as the emotion.

This is enhanced further by the clever use of video to bring in other characters – such as Eileen’s parents who are so self-absorbed in their own lives to give much attention to their living child – with the scene in which they are all heading to Olive’s funeral proving to be particularly effective- it adds another layer of context to the story, while allowing Day a little time to breathe. Given the length of the play, Georgie Staight’s production is suitably pacy and urgent – ensuring that the audience is completely absorbed by the story and the themes that emerge.

Whether it is discussing eating disorders, death or body image, Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon is a sharp piece of writing and Rosie Day really manages to delve deep into each subject – particularly when linking it back to her sister. There is plenty of conflict in emotions – whether it is the joy of making friends with a ‘cool’ girl or the horror of discovering just who the boy she has been fancying really is – everything has a powerful impact and you really get a strong sense of just how vulnerable and confused Eileen really is. Yes, there are occasional moments in which the change of subject or tone can be slightly disorientating but on reflection this just gives the audience another opportunity to try and understand Eileen’s state of mind.

As a performer, Rosie Day is a compelling storyteller and narrator – she captures the character’s conflicting personality traits with ease and really makes the audience feel as though they are part of her story too by simply being her confidante. She ensures that there is something that everybody can relate to – there were certainly plenty of moments that took me back to my teenage years – making sure that although the character makes mistakes and has flaws she has a vulnerability about her that makes her likeable.

Despite a few moments which feel slightly rough around the edges transition wise, this is a show that has engaging storytelling and a captivating performance that makes it worth seeing.

By Emma Clarendon

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 5th March.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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