Triskaidekaphobia- the fear of the number 13. This is commonly referred to as the age when one becomes a teenager, but for Eileen, she can only recall it to be the age she was when her older sister, Olive, died from anorexia. It all started (or should we say, ended) with a Yorkshire pudding. A trail of often untold devastation followed, as the wayward teen must navigate her adolescence without the one person she longed for by her side.
A silent destruction slips through her once-perfect family, causing her parents to divorce and bring new challenges, particularly in the form of annoying little step-sisters. Judgement always lingers, with either flurries of questions that never seem to end, or a haunting knowing without volume. While isolation from old friends is rife, Eileen turns to her Scouts group to begin searching for herself. Meeting someone new to befriend- someone who treats her as a human in her own right- they allow for fresh experiences, such as clubbing for the first time. These simultaneously bring freedom and joy, yet lead to a pang of pain under the crushing weight of the world.
Rosie Day is an utter triumph. Her writing is profound, and performing is formidable. Every word is spoken with clarity, and crafted with purpose. She perfectly emulates the complexity of emotions endured while being a teenager, and presents this through some impeccable storytelling. Huge courage is shown with regards to approaching such meaningful themes in this way; in particularly the grief that swallows all those affected, and the lasting impact it has.
There are powerful lessons about humanity that can be told from this show, especially with regards to the interactions with youth. It is unsurprising that they are often filled with anger, when their existence is barely listened to, and they are so rarely asked basics like how they are. This show expresses that in a way that is easily understood, and frequently funny at times, yet doesn't lack importance, and the depth required to do it effectively.
With a bark chipping floor, and minimal props, it is evident that the richness of the narrative almost comes solely from the language and performance of Rosie. She creates so much with so little surrounding her, that while the logs and bag point towards the significance of her scouting ways, there is much more to be told. Using voiceovers and screens sometimes helps with the introduction of other characters, and changes in scene are regularly broken with the announcement of the next badge to be awarded. Due to the nature of being so immersed in the story, these are not always necessary, but a nice addition to the piece, that work well alongside Rosie's impressions. A particular scene involves a lit fire in a bucket being the only light in the room, illuminating the face of Eileen, and matching both her words and feelings completely.
The show ends in a beautifully touching way, displaying strength and solicitude for the relationships we can share with one another if thoughtful enough, and leaving you with a deeper, starker meaning to the most popular Dexys Midnight Runners song. It is only near this point when we find out the name of the character we've been so devoted to, which draws everything to a close, and acts as a reminder that we can still relate and be willing to appreciate the experiences of others through just what they choose to say and be.
Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon surpasses all expectations, and is a truly enthralling piece. Once she's captivated you, it's impossible to not want to listen to Rosie talking all day, about anything.