“Don’t grow up,” warns one of the young characters in People You May Know’s Births, Deaths & Marriages. “It’s a trap.” That trap is one that’s closing in on the show’s four teenage and twenty-something protagonists, each with their own growing pains. Either running away or starting again, they’re all looking for something else, something more.
Against the political backdrop of a nation royally screwing over its young, Births, Deaths & Marriages is more potent than your average coming-of-age tale. There’s an aching ordinariness to these small struggles, acknowledged as nothing special among a generation all fumbling their way towards a darkening future. The characters’ lives, as one of them puts it, are just “a bit shit”; no grand tragedies here.
Born out of the New Wolsey Theatre’s excellent Young Associates programme, People You May Know still have all the youthful potential and appetite for experimentation that first got them noticed. But they’re also still finding their way, trying things out and seeing what fits. They throw a lot—sometimes too much—at this story: projected backdrops, movement sequences, ever-shifting performance registers and creatively integrated audio description. It’s exciting but a tad scattergun.
If the aesthetic is occasionally overloaded, it can also be hard at times to gauge what the company are ultimately getting at with their tales of nascent adulthood. These stories, while speaking to a disenchanted generation, never quite knit together into something more forceful. Ingenuity and urgency are there, it’s just the clarity that needs sharpening.