Drip monkey bars not medically recommended: image via National Theatre

Written by Matthew Bulgo
Performed by CYGNETS
2nd April 2017

This short review originally appeared as a comment here.

I’m all for youth theatre on serious themes – even cancer, that dreaded ‘C-word’. It was brilliantly explored by Contact Young Company in their recent show There is a Light (reviewed by the MTA Youth Panel here), which brought together the embarrassing, ridiculous and painful aspects of a cancer ‘journey’.

#YOLO is a different show, with many of the same themes but a far more personal focus on the central character’s emotional struggle following cancer diagnosis. His bottled-up fear and anger are portrayed well by the young actor, whose performance is at once blank-faced and emotive. We can tell that Jack is struggling to keep his composure despite the mounting pressure of his medical situation. If things get awkward, he blasts his music and walks away – a realistic touch.

However, Jack’s masculine repression means that we spend a lot of time listening to his friends chatter on obliviously while he’s silently fretting in a corner. As Georgina’s review says, when not delivered with the snappiness required, these scenes feel dull and unnecessary. And while some of the cultural references are on-the-nail (Mr. Brightside is the teen anthem of the last ten years), others are clangingly bad (unfortunately for writer Matthew Bulgo, YOLO was a short-lived catchphrase and is long dead in slang terms).

The final, hopeful scene is mostly without dialogue and yet carries real emotional weight. The same goes for the moment when Jack’s composure cracks as he drinks and dances alone on the beach. It’s a shame that the more dialogue-heavy scenes couldn’t live up to these memorable silences.