Billie Walker

The City and the Value of Things: Review

During the last week of February, the Everyman theatre proudly presented The City and the Value of Things, a production written, produced and starring their Young Everyman Playhouse actors. A group of 56 young people, aged between 14 & 25, charge the main stage to showcase their talent and air their grievances of British society (of which they have a lot).

For young people growing up today the 24 hour news cycle and ease at which information is accessed, means that’s they can often feel bombarded by the issues in society: the rise of homelessness, threat of terrorism, reality of debt, lack of employment opportunities, pressures of social media, celebrity obsession: the list goes on. The fast paced nature of the show in which flurries of actors poured onto the stage and ran to their position for each skit, created a rather chaotic feeling, that tidal wave of news that can often feel as if it is crashing down on you. So many issues were raised over the course of the show, but they avoided leaving you feeling empathically drained by highlighting these issues in different ways; some were stressed through dance, others song, others either use a comic or serious tone.

It was refreshing to see deprivation shown in a current setting on stage. These young actors appeared to me more aware of issues of class wealth and privilege than some adults I know and were definitely more sensitive to them. Pretty much every sketch in The City, addressed the issues of poverty in Britain from one unique angle to another, all linked by the last light bulb passed from scene to scene. While you might argue that those interested in the arts are the most sympathetic to social issues, with theatre’s reputation as an elitist art form, the importance of these fresh faces being conscious and vocal of social divides cannot be understated.

Above all else, The City and the Value of Things gave a realistic portrayal of student life. The millennial generation is continuously misunderstood; apparently, we are apathetic, lazy, avocado lovers, who aren’t able to think critically (that was a new one I recently heard in person) or save money. The YEP team have shown what students really have to deal with in order to deconstruct the misconceptions hanging over us. One hilarious sketch had a group of doe-eyed first years herded around a building site on a “conceptual tour” of the soon to be constructed: “LIVERPOOL LUXURY LIFESTYLE LIMITED STUDENT ACCOMMODATION FLATS!!!” Shining a light on the extremes of housing options for students either a new build dehumanizing complex or what was shown in another scene, a tiny room in a disheveled house with a terrible landlord. Walking through the city center you can see visibly the tragic impact that these commercial accommodations are having on Liverpool’s landscape, but the blame is wrongly placed on the students who do not wish to live in these complexes as much as the locals wish they didn’t exist. Therefore, I am grateful for YEP’s representation of the student narrative as a hope those who have seen it will reassess judgments or call others to refrain from placing blame on this generation.

The Everyman and Playhouse are very proud of their youth programme and so they should be. Not only do they mentor young actors, they host schemes for marketers, directors and writers, which enables young people to gain experience and understanding of the industry. The amount of local talent that was apparent in this production was extremely impressive. The variety of conceptions and the presentation of said concepts was thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to the next YEP Production.

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