Germ-Free Adolescent, The Bunker – Review

Sex is stressful, right? Messy body fluids, STDs, the possibility of being laughed at when undressed. Who needs that..? Written by Natalie Mitchell and directed by Grace Gummer, Germ-Free Adolescent takes a lighthearted look at the pitfalls of being intimate with someone you want to be romantically involved with.

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Ashley (Francesca Henry) and Ollie (Jake Richards) / Photos © Sam Wainwright

Ashley (Francesca Henry) is the ‘go-to’ person at school for advice about sex, especially ‘after the fact…’ Armed with her selection of leaflets, she holds an ‘open surgery’ three times a week with confidentially assured.

Ashley is held in high regard by her friend Tracey, Paul – a beneficiary of her leaflets – and Ollie (Jake Richards), a friend she’s known her whole life. But at the grand ‘old age’ of 16, both realise they more than just ‘like’ each other and are prepared to take their relationship to the next level. At least Ollie is… Unbeknownst to him, Ashley has OCD and is afraid. Knowing in detail about everything that could arise from sex, she’s torn between wanting intimacy, yet haunted by her own bad experiences…

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Henry and Richards are perfectly cast in their respective roles, and their chemistry really drives the story. Mitchell’s writing captures the paranoia of one’s teen years and the insecurities that arise from early experiences. Asides from the ‘coming of age’ anecdotes, the one thing that’s universally relatable in the play is the way that misunderstandings arise between people, and how embarrassment about past actions can compound periods of estrangement.

As shown in the play, mental health is even more important in one’s teens than to be STD-free, yet ironically it is more of a taboo subject than having/not having sex. But rather than labour the point in a stuffy fashion, Germ-Free Adolescent uses humour and acute observations to convey the reality of 21st century teenagers.

© Michael Davis 2019

Germ-Free Adolescent runs at The Bunker Theatre until 9th November.


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