As spokeswoman Hannah Knox explains: “It’s a rare example of a theatre show for teenagers and it’s coming from The Paper Birds, a politically and socially engaged, female-led company who enjoys working with verbatim text. For this show they have asked teenagers around the UK to send them letters and ask them anything, and this show is their answer. Set in a 90s teenage bedroom, it explores themes such as mental health, suicide, motherhood and friendship.”
“It features live original music by the fabulous Rosie Doonan (BBC R2 Folk Award nominee who performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel and Chris Martin of Coldplay).
“Some of the questions the company received include: Why does having a relationship feel like a competition? Why is a sex such a priority? Why is freedom still bought and not our God given right? Do we have to gain from the misfortune of others? Are any of you bi-racial? And if you are, do you ever feel like your identity is split in two? Have you ever felt the urge to lash out and hit innocent people or objects? Is racism ok if it’s a joke? Is ignoring racism part of the problem? Do you think society will ever accept me being black and gay?
Am I doing ok?”
“Known as UK’s leaders of verbatim theatre with political and social slant, The Paper Birds devised Ask Me Anything inspired by magazine’s problem pages they read growing up in the 90s and 00s. The company has asked young people living today in the era of mobile phones and Google to write and ask them anything. Nothing was off limits. The show, filled with The Paper Birds’ trademark mischief and mayhem, is its response.
“So welcome to the 90s, era of dial-up Internet, pen pals and house phones where the Company explores the themes of cyber addition, self-expression, peer pressure, sisterhood and youth suicide, among others, using real-life verbatim stories of young people from across the UK.
“Ask Me Anything is for teenagers, grandparents and everyone in between who is also still figuring it all out. It’s about what we can teach the next generation and what they can teach us."
Jemma McDonnell, co-director of The Paper Birds, said: “When we reached out and asked young people to write to us, we had no idea if any teenagers actually would! We were in equal measure thrilled and petrified when the letters began to come back in the post. What really struck us was the absolute honesty and vulnerability within the letters.
“Ask Me Anything is a celebration of this honestly and vulnerability; as well as messiness, imperfection, growth, mistakes, trials, experiments and risking it all. It is, and we are, a work-in-progress. We, like the young people who wrote to us, have not figured it all out and we are ok with that.”