• Amy Toledano

Germ Free Adolescent presented by Epsilon Productions

Image courtesy of Sam Wainwright

What is it?

Written by Natalie Mitchell, this play follows a 16 year old girl as she tries to form a deep relationship while she also struggles with her OCD. This is a love story that explores what it means to be “normal”.

What is it all about?

Ashley is a 16 year old girl who is the school’s expert on sexual medical health. She has collected 2,354 leaflets on STI’s and can recite facts on them immediately off the top of her head. She has been going out with Ollie for 3 months. On the night they decide to have sex for the first time, she is incredibly nervous. She really likes Ollie and wants to have sex with him but is struggling with her OCD. Ollie is excited but is also nervous because he has one leg that is shorter than the other and has been made fun of in previous relationships. When Ashley’s OCD overcomes her, she recoils from an intimate night. This causes Ollie, who believes this to be a reaction to his leg, to act unpleasantly, causing a breakdown in their relationship. This leads to an internal conflict within both characters, where they both ask the question: Are they normal?

How did it make me feel?

From the very start I felt very engaged both by the exceptional writing, which presented real and warm characters and sharp interweaving monologues, and Francesca Henry and Jake Richards who brought this to life in an energy-filled and believable way. Henry and Richards, who play Ashley and Ollie, are on stage throughout, and narrate the story almost entirely though these interweaving monologues. A lot of the action of the story, therefore, is narrated rather then played out physically. However this is never disappointing or unclear due to the clarity and the dynamics in both the writing and Henry and Richards’ performance. This use of narration of physical enactment is therefore a great choice by Director Grace Gummer as it allows the characters and the writing to shine in way that feels more real and thus has a greater impact. Having said this the performances are supported beautifully through the design, which divides the space into four different areas and the use of projection which conveys Ashley’s internal mechanisms for making her feel better when her OCD is at its highest peak. The characters themselves, and what they go through in the play, feel very authentic. This is probably due to Mitchell’s sheer amount of research. Indeed the best of the play for me was how it delved into OCD and mental health in way that conveyed its complexity while being extremely accessible, describing, exploring the thoughts and feelings of people who suffer with these health issues, along with the message that it’s ok to have them and that it doesn’t make you any less normal.

Having said this the resolution to the play, although uplifting, is unearned and left me feeling quite unsatisfied. Without giving too much away, one characters quite hurtful actions are never truly acknowledged and there are no repercussions for their actions. Although they might have had a “good” reason for what they had done, I personally couldn’t forgive them and felt that what they had done needed to be addressed further.

Where was it playing?

It is playing at The Bunker Theatre, until the 9th of November.

Anything else

Overall this is a fresh and engaging piece of new writing that is performed beautifully. It is such an important piece, especially for young people. 1 in 10 young people suffer from mental health problems and this play really helps to not only spread awareness about this, but it also goes a long way in helping people feel understood and for people to understand others. It’s a must watch.

Yusuf x

Germ Free Adolescent is playing at The Bunker Theatre until the 9th November 2019.

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