Ask Me Anything, VAULT Festival

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by Meredith Jones Russell

Georgie Coles, Rosie Doonan and Kylie Perry asked young people across the UK, born and brought up on Whatsapp, Google and Instagram, to write in and ask them anything, anything at all. They then created Ask Me Anything to provide them with some answers.

Problem one – they don’t have any. Granted, it takes well over an hour to arrive at that conclusion, but after being bombarded with queries from ‘how do you make an apple cake that isn’t claggy’ to ‘does it hurt to have sex’, it transpires our three hosts don’t really have any answers to anything at all.

That should work as a conceit. No one has all the answers. The play’s repeated references to ‘90s agony aunts reminds us of a bygone age when we were genuinely led to believe that one person might. Bthouut with its slick use of multiple screens and audio-visual aids throughout, it also hammers home the point that the internet age proves there are many different ideas, voices and approaches out there to any problem. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

But it takes our hosts far too long to arrive at this, fairly obvious, conclusion. Nearly half the running time passes before they even attempt to address a question. In between, we sit through an uncomfortable take-off of an American teen sitcom, which isn’t half as funny as it thinks, some awkwardly faux-spontaneous interaction, irrelevant extracts from old diaries, and a lot of songs about having a baby. In reality, the voices of the young people whose questions were supposed to form the basis of the show are never really heard at all.

Nor does the show effectively seek to bridge the gap between generations. For a start, the three performers are all under 40. Sure, their memories of dial-up internet and not getting a phone until the end of primary school are slightly different to your average Generation-Z, but it’s not an enormous leap. And despite the cast creating an informal, natural and easy rapport with the audience, the show does not try to open up any form of potentially interesting and important dialogue on any of the issues raised, although the group of people sat in the dark is actually much more diverse than the one on stage.

The production values are high, the songs (by Rosie Doonan) are great and the technical direction is very competent, but the show feels like a missed opportunity to deal entertainingly or cogently with some of the potentially interesting issues facing our young people and wider society today.

Ask Me Anything runs through 16 February.

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