In recent years, Generation Y (‘Millennials’) have received bad press from certain quarters – for having ‘unrealistic expectations of life’, for being ‘snowflakes’, for ‘being out of touch with reality’. The truth is, ever since the inception of ‘youth culture’ in the 1950s – whereby there was a distinction made between teenagers/young people with the previous generation – there has always been a ‘tension’ between the values of the status quo and tomorrow’s ‘senior citizens’.
Having conducted a survey that was responded to by a number of ‘Millennials’, Pregnant Fish Theatre have created a piece of theatre that dramatises their hopes, fears and way of looking at the world. Written and directed by Tom Drayton, Like Lions follows siblings Sam and Jacob as they go to university and beyond. While they may be twins, the lives of Jacob (James Glyn) and Sam (Faye Carmichael) follow very different paths.
Meeting someone special at university, Sam’s ‘political consciousness’ is awakened and finds along with her burgeoning relationship that her life has meaning. Jacob’s time at university is less satisfactory, eventually dropping out and working in low-paid jobs to survive. But a documentary about a forgotten satellite town holds the key to Jacob’s questions about life…
Without hyperbole, Like Lions is unconventional in its structure and the way that it tackles its subject matter. There is an acknowlegement from the beginning about the ‘meta’ nature of the show, and the elements that are ‘fictional’ versus ‘truthful’. There are also occasions, where Glyn and Carmichael ‘break character’ to talk to the audience about the survey responses and how they reflect the true worries of Generation Y. While some are mildly amusing, the majority are universal concerns and no different from what young people have ever wanted in the past.
In terms of the timeline for the show, the early experiences of Sam and Jacob take place a few years ago, back when the Occupy movement took place globally. While people have long been been discontented with the political regimes that have pursued the interests of the wealthiest 1%, the Occupy movement was the first event since the 1960s where younger people globally made their voice heard. Alas, the insular concerns of the older generations at the Brexit Referendum have pretty much guaranteed fiscal hardships for all and in terms of the future, things are bleaker than ever before. So where do Millennials find hope? Where does anyone find the answers?
Through the character of Jacob we see the search for answers through one’s own perception of the world and ‘what lies beneath the surface’. In contrast, Sam’s unconditional engagement in the political sphere only brings temporary satisfaction, as she finds not everyone views the necessity of ‘micropolitics’ and has to question whether there are limits to what can be achieved.
There are a lot of ideas that permeate the show and what I have written only scratches the surface of what was explored. In some ways, what the show proposes is the exploration of ideas and the asking of questions. There are no panaceas, no ready-made answers, but the will to carry on and holding on to hope is all important…
© Michael Davis 2018
Like Lions ran at Bread & Roses Theatre on 12th-14th October.