Hilarity, Pain and Mess - Wild Life FM on What It's Like To Be Young Today

Communicating across generations is one of the biggest challenges people have to face. Not only, verbal and visual codes get updated very quickly, but, with age, adults become less able to adopt new ways of expressing themselves. As a result, they often provoke unpleasant situations where they fail to establish fruitful communication with their offspring, pupils or younger siblings.

Even though all of them can boast first-hand experience of youth, adults seem programmed to forget the unique features of that phase of their lives, its immediacy and randomness, and the extraordinary ability to keep thoughts and actions perfectly separated, often with detrimental outcomes. With time, they become increasingly judgemental and oblivious to the big questions that once used to anguish them, promptly dismissing the issue as silly or unimportant.

This is where performances like Wild Life FM find their relevance, as they build intergenerational bridges and reach out to young audiences and simultaneously more mature ones. The messy and patchy nature of this show is the very reflection of the channels used by today's teenagers. A predominantly visual culture stuffed with YouTube epic fail compilations, GIFs, emojis and smartphone video clips.

During a 50-minute unrestrained mashup of contributions, the group provides vocal and technical support to the artist taking turn under the spotlight, occasionally dispensing moral advice and directly involving the audience.

this is an unceremonious and raw exposition of what it’s like being young today

Most of the action revolves around the idea of coming of age, based on freedom of speech, sexual initiation, and alcohol and drug consumption. Inevitably, the unapologetic use of obscenities and sexually-overt statements caused the giggles of the schoolkids in the audience and raised some critics' eyebrow.

Painful relationships with their peers and the impending obligations of adulthood feature in the young creatives' pieces, whether these be self-written songs, beatbox sessions or prank calls. There's also space for thoughts on politics and social responsibility, contravening the unjustified belief that teenagers don't possess articulate ideals.

Causing hilarity and disbelief, one of the girls on stage phones the unwitting receptionist of a hotel chain. She's interested in the company policy on underage guests losing their virginity within the premises, and whether assistance is provided to those who wish to carry out the deed. Unsurprisingly, the customer service representative is unwilling to discuss the matter.

Performance artist Kim Noble's trademark bluntness is written all over it, as topical scenarios are unashamedly presented without filters. A sense of loneliness and the bleakness of existence loom over the auditorium, charged with anxieties and yet brightened by the dreams and hopes for a brighter future.

Together with the controversial artist – who once recorded his neighbours having sex and documented his suicidal tendencies during a live show – the creative pool is led by musician Jakob Ampe and director Pol Heyvaert. The latter representing a prolific partnership between London's Unicorn Theatre and CAMPO, a Ghent-based arts centre that offers one of Belgium's most rich and diverse dance, performance and visual arts programming.

Leaving free rein to nine young musicians, cast from London and Norfolk, Wild Life FM fills a significant gap in modern theatre, with regular companies failing to cater for 14-18 audiences. Part devised play and part gig, this is an unceremonious and raw exposition of what it’s like being young today, a live radio broadcast about music as a way of voicing a generation that too often remains silenced.

The strongest images are rooted in the inherent contradictions of the teenage years, like a chatty and inquisitive boy suddenly muted by a ball-gag, or a Google search about Harry Potter having sex. Both are suspended somewhere between childhood hangovers and the roughest edges of adulthood.

After a critically-acclaimed residency at the Unicorn Theatre, the show is touring Switzerland, Belgium and Germany. Enlightening audiences with its unique, yet universal, language of youth, made of bright background projections and computer-generated sound effects, together with the undisputed and unadulterated talent of the terrific musicians on stage.



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