Theatre Review: Twenties // [email protected]

Photo Credit: Charlotte Anne-Tilley Productions

Trigger warning: this performance and review of Twenties contains references to sexual assault.

A humorous, heart-warming production from [email protected]’s Season 2 line-up, Charlotte Anne-Tilley plaits together many of the difficulties that come with leaving home for the first time in her production Twenties. As she waves goodbye to her family home in order to “get the hell out of Cheshire” and move into a Tottenham bed-sit, protagonist Hope reflects on what it means to grow up and be an adult.

The show is mostly performed as a monologue from Hope’s perspective, who breaks the fourth wall to tell her story directly to the audience and allows for brief interludes of dialogue from the friends and family members in her life. At the start of the piece, Hope (Charlotte Anne-Tilley) explains that she is desperate to escape her small-town lifestyle of shifts at Tesco Extra and hanging out with her boyfriend, who she’s been with since high school. Her mother (Jess Parsons) appears to have developed a Pixar-complex, where she religiously watches all of the Toy Story films back-to-back upon hearing of her daughter’s desire to move to London, whereas her emotionally-distant father (Harry McMullen) “couldn’t care less”. I suspect, in one way of another, these responses ring true for many twenty-somethings who are watching from home.

Whilst the acting is generally good, there are occasional moments that feel awkward, or where the pace could be picked up a bit. This isn’t helped by the hap-hazard editing of characters entering and leaving scenes, or the constantly changing audio levels, which leaves the piece feeling, looking and sounding clunky. However, I suppose that this medium of performance might not be what the production team are used to (thanks, Coronavirus!), and I don’t envy anyone who is trying to teach themselves how to edit video and audio amongst everything else that’s going on.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Anne-Tilley Productions.

Above all, Charlotte Anne-Tilley’s writing is the most commendable; there were times that I was genuinely in stitches giggling at the familiarity of what Hope was going through. The boys’ Tinder captions of being “here for a good time, not a long time”, the frequent toilet breaks at work “just to get away from it all”, the disgust at how many Southerners there were at work, and the notion that inviting someone to McDonalds when you’ve had a fall-out on a night out fixes all manners of sins, particularly stand out.

‘The Interview’ section very much has an air of Fleabag about it, which I enjoyed. Hope’s quick-witted comments about the manager having ketchup on his face, and someone’s arse on his t-shirt, are lines that could have been said by Waller-Bridge’s character herself, and is also where Anne-Tilley’s performance is strongest.

However, the lack of a trigger warning before the performance did upset me. From Hope’s interview at Dino World, through to the very end of the piece, there is frequent mention of sexual assault quite literally at the hands of her manager, Daz. Whilst I commend the team for including this all-too-well-known element of being a girl in your twenties very sensitively and naturally (in fact, Zoe Birkbeck’s performance of Beth in this strand of Hope’s narrative is possibly the stand-out performance of Twenties), it is crucial that theatre outlines warnings for potential triggers like this, even if it is online-based.

Twenties is not a spotless production, but there’s a strength that comes from Anne-Tilley’s writing. She certainly captures the humorous chaos of being a twenty-something, and the fun that comes with having no idea what you’re doing. At only half-an-hour long, I see no harm in taking the time out of your day to give this a watch; I left the piece with a knowing-grin and having engaged in a medium that I’m desperately missing during lockdown.

Words by Morgan Hartley.

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