Review: (sorry) at the REP | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: (sorry) at the REP

Culture Critic Mollie Johnson reviews (sorry) at the REP, a trilogy of monologues exploring young people's place in 21st century society

Susie Sillett’s trilogy of monologues offers a deeply insightful interpretation of young people’s experiences in the 21st century. She challenges generational assumptions that millennials face with a focus on three key themes: job exploitation, crumbling friendships, and the apocalypse.

Performed in an eight-row theatre, Phoebe Brown incorporated humour and relatability from the very first line, captivating the audience with her sarcasm, wit and delivery. You’re taken on a journey in the form of a three-part monologue with a woman who represents a generation of apologists.

The set comprised of papers in a circle around a chair, never meeting an end. They could symbolise CVs, ice, thoughts and are completely open to interpretation by the audience. Jennifer Davis, the director, claimed that the set is “whatever you want it to be” in the post-show questions, reminding us that the paper would also be recycled after the show.

A deeply insightful interpretation of young people’s experiences in the 21st century

Part 1: Job Exploitation

The play opens with Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ and a quip about the “fruity hints of slave labour” that work experience and internships offer.  As a millennial sitting in the audience who has undertaken unpaid work experience, the points seemed to hit home as the morality of unpaid work was questioned and attacked.

Young people’s exploitation at work through the lack of contracts, pay and the consuming nature is a persistent problem today. So many graduates leave university with the hope of a high paying job and end up living back at home with their parents, struggling to earn a living and desperately trying to find a step on the housing ladder. The monologue deals with these issues as this millennial attempts to convince herself that returning home is normal and that “everyone does it”.

The meaningful messages are interwoven with a discussion on whether to purchase branded or supermarket’s own chickpeas. The audience follows ‘a day in the life of a young adult’, gaining an insight into how our generation lives and the struggles faced.

The monologue is littered with comparisons: with other graduates, with doctors, with nurses, with paramedics, and with family members. How can one make a difference in the world if they do not save lives? References to Disney films and an unattainable ‘happy ever after’ are thrown out to the audience, one after another, whilst the music reaches its crescendo and the lights begin to dim. Part one ends with a reminder: life is no fairy-tale.

Part 2: Crumbling Friendships

The beginning of another day and section is signposted by a musical interlude and blue lighting representing the night. She is sat on the chair with a napkin on her lap. There is an explicit suggestion that she is at a meal with a friend, though it is not obvious who and their gender seems to change throughout the scene as she confronts and questions the outcome of different friendships from her past.

Sillett’s writing of this scene plays around with the mechanisms of friendships, asking the generic questions and proclaiming happiness for their engagement, their new job, their new house… 

'Brown’s depiction of crumbling friendships post-university highlights a familiar issue for many...'

The play deals with technology throughout the three monologues, but pauses on the importance placed on it here when noting how friendship is measured by the number of Facebook friends you have and the amount of likes you get on a post. For example, the disappointment that one feels when they see their “number go down” and realise that someone no longer wants to know what’s going on in your life.

The “friends forever” promise that every millennial has been made resonates with a generation whose forever friends wouldn’t even smile at them in the street anymore. Comparisons aplenty, Part Two furthers the exploration of the self as she blames herself for the breakdown of friendships and assures both herself and the audience that she’ll be getting married soon too – just like her friend.

Probably the most relatable monologue to those in the audience, Brown’s depiction of crumbling friendships post-university highlights a familiar issue for many. The incessant and ever-growing loneliness as people that you used to share your life with slip further and further away is perfectly shown through the overlapping narratives, both explicit and implicit.

Part 3: The Apocalypse

The end of Part 2 is marked by the naturalistic sounds of birds and lapping water, coinciding perfectly with the topic of the third monologue: the environment and impending apocalypse. Sillett uses her grandmother’s death as a framing device, flitting between her grandmother’s situation and the wider issue of climate change and our failing planet.

'(sorry) does a brilliant job of conveying the struggles of a misrepresented and misinterpreted generation...'

The narrative shifts impeccably, one moment she (Phoebe Brown) is talking about her trip to Iceland with her grandmother and the next she is questioning why nobody has ‘fixed’ the world beforehand, claiming how it is now the millennial generation’s job to do so.

The blending of personal and global experience is key to the monologue’s success through the explicit references to feeling guilty for being upset about personal events like a grandparent dying when the world is falling apart around us. The audience are forced to weigh up our own ‘waste versus contribution’ to the planet. She calls her grandmother “Princess Aurora”, foreshadowing her death in line with the earlier message regarding the falseness of fairy-tales.

The philosophical thoughts presented in this final section deliver a powerful take-home message: What is the point in being alive if you’re damaging the planet more than helping it?

A side note, an apology for an apology from a generation who apologise on a daily basis but seem to be the only ones doing so. (sorry) does a brilliant job of conveying the struggles of a misrepresented and misinterpreted generation.

The show is the final installment for this New & Nurtured season, a programme which celebrates work created by local, young artists. The next season begins on 26th January 2018, with tickets for all seven shows totaling £35.

Final year English Language and Literature student. (@mollieajohnson)



Published

15th November 2017 at 2:00 pm



Images from

REP and Phoebe Frances Brown



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