Tag Archives: Georgie Staight

“Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon” at the Garrick Theatre

Rosie Day’s play, which is being adapted for TV and has an accompanying book, is an effective summation of current teenage concerns. The piece is hard-hitting and, appropriately, didactic. Under the direction of Georgie Staight, this limited-run production is impressively slick, and the show is a great vehicle for its star, Charithra Chandran.

We meet Eileen just after her sister, Chloe, has died. Day writes about grief in a sensitive and detailed manner. But the cause of death – anorexia – is given just as much attention. How both affect the whole family and their mental health is explored. And Eileen’s life doesn’t stop because her sibling is dead. She has other problems, including making friends, finding love and earning Scout badges.

It’s a lot, but then so is being a teenager. There are touches of humour, a few impressively dark, but sincerity and authenticity are the order of the day. Thankfully, Day doesn’t make Eileen too mature (an essential key to the play’s success). And the momentum of the show is controlled expertly by Staight. It’s clear from the start that Eileen cares more than she lets on… but it’s still heart-wrenching to realise how tough things are.

With important themes and plenty of drama, the piece is an intense challenge as an 80-minute monologue, but Chandran is superb. She isn’t quite alone. There are also voiceovers and video clips, which prove are the least successful part of the production. Section introductions from Sensible Scout Leader Susan (Maxine Peake, no less) are more than enough to break up the action. And Chandran is heavily miked (although initial feedback was corrected quickly, this is distracting). I’m just not sure any extras are needed. Chandran can hold a stage and tells the story well.

Indeed, for some, the performance will be the most enjoyable part of Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon. To see an actor so in control of material is always a pleasure. For the more jaded, coming-of-age dramas can… lack drama. But the stakes here are high, and Eileen’s encounter with a predatory older man is particularly distressing. Still, there are no surprises, even if it’s all well targeted.

The show’s move to the West End, having started out at Southwark Playhouse, is to be celebrated. It’s great to see a transfer like this, with Day’s and Staight’s skill and hard work rewarded. I’ve no doubt the play will mean a lot to many – it deserves to.

Two performances, every Sunday until 28 April 2024


Photo by Danny Kaan

“Into The Numbers” at the Finborough Theatre

The celebrated American playwright Christopher Chen uses the work and death of scholar Iris Chang to create a complex philosophical play. Structured around a book tour for Chang’s best-seller The Rape of Nanking, billed as detailing the forgotten holocaust of World War II, the play follows the tragic journey towards the author’s suicide. The piece is powerful and demanding.

Elizabeth Chan gives a superb performance in the lead role, reflecting Chang’s articulacy and fragility. Presented as a series of lectures, interviews, and then visits to her therapist, as an insight into mental health Chen’s writing is disturbing and poignant. The roles of the host, husband and doctor are all played by Timothy Knightly – a remarkable performance – and the drama escalates skilfully, evoking Chang’s increasing pain, paranoia and grasp on reality.

Both the story of Nanking and the effect studying such trauma had on Chang are embodied in a series of mystical encounters: with a Japanese soldier, an anonymous victim, and real-life heroine, Minnie Vautrin. The massacre’s moral importance, dramatically essential as Chang becomes “trapped” by her work, is depicted with respectful conviction by all. And the direction from Georgie Staight is impeccable throughout (aided by Matt Cater’s lighting). But these scenes from “another dimension” are less successful. A trio of performers struggles with such token appearances and some ponderous moments. While our attachment to Chang deepens, these forays into philosophical speculation pale.

The text is full of complicated concepts, some of which are surely dead ends, and it would be helpful to point those out more clearly: a representative for modern Japan proves a particular stumbling block. But Chen’s ambition is bracing and the considerations of monism, evil and time are all fascinating. There’s nothing patronising, and I confess some of the ideas were over my head even before having them expressed through the prism of mental illness. If occasionally laboured, Into The Numbers is impressively intellectual, layered and invigorating. Just make sure you’ve blown away any Christmas cobwebs from your brain before trying to tackle this one.

Until 27 January 2018


Photos by Scott Rylander

“Little Pieces of Gold” at the Southwark Playhouse

This night of new writing produced by Suzette Coon is a great chance for future star spotting. There are nine up-and-coming writers, not forgetting the directors, and 23 actors helping them out. It’s an exciting testament to the creativity and talent of the theatre scene.

Interestingly, the first three pieces all had a connection to the justice system. Abraham Adeyemi’s subject was a post-murder scene, Rachel Archer’s a court-enforced mediation, but the one that stood out was by Tatty Hennessy as it switched from laughs to drama effectively and had a strong performance from Louisa Hollway. And more good comedy with Sid Sagar’s The State We’re In: a multi-racial flat share scenario that raised risqué questions and benefited from a strong quartet of performers, including Leila Damilola as a clueless representative of the Home Office.

After the interval there were three plays centred on young love and college, the funniest being the evening’s finale, Vegan Visiting by Micah Smith, which showcased the talents of its director, Jaclyn Bradley. The most interesting pieces were set in the world of work. Corinne Salisbury’s Girlboss imagined a disciplinary hearing and had an impressive amount to say – well done to director Georgie Staight for handling the thought-provoking content. The boldest writing was Tom Collinson’s Percy –about an older employee facing obsolescence, which benefitted from Mike Hayley’s excellent performance.

 Little Pieces of Gold is an event to add to the calendar. And, given the size, one that’s a little intimidating to write about. It isn’t a competition, thankfully, but searching for stand out is irresistible. My critic’s fingers are crossed for those I’ve highlighted. Apologies to those left out and here’s the sincere hope that they prove me a fool.