It seems that most days bring a new online article or news segment about the casualisation of the workforce, sky-rocketing house prices, stagnant wages, and general catastrophe for younger generations to navigate and establish a life in. Luckily for these two twenty-somethings, they’ve simply decided to not be stressed anymore.
After a particularly disastrous evening in which one person spoils dinner and the other gets their power cut-off, this couple (Jasmin Simmons and Kieran McGrath) take a vow to never be stressed again. For McGrath’s character, this means pursuing his dreams of working at a chicken shop while Simmons’s character begins an at-home lifestyle as an ASMR Youtuber. They also make a cool new best friend (Elliott Mitchell) who plays a mini bongo and helps cement their chilled vibes. Unsurprisingly, the vow becomes difficult to maintain when they make mistakes and their actions begin to impact on the people around them, prompting a minor breakdown and some soul-searching about whether or not they are really, actually good people.
Michael Costi’s script is fast-paced and searingly accurate about both the stresses and anxieties faced by young adults now and also the vapid, individualistic attitude so prevalent on social media where twenty-somethings grew up. What seems to trip his characters up more than anything is their attachment to appearance, how do their actions/choices/relationships impact how they look to other people, rather than what makes them happy and healthy. The script is very funny and takes a lot of jabs at hollow aesthetics but while also crafting two sympathetic characters for are, unfortunately, doing their best.
Grace Deacon’s set design was a Pinterest-esque modern apartment that cleverly transformed into a neon-lighted chicken shop. The lighting design by Benjamin Brockman came to the fore during unreal moments like when McGrath’s character accepted his life within the chicken suit under shifting turquoise and red lights like a stimulating but abstract sensorial dream. The direction from Eve Beck played into the heightened emotions of these characters, leading them into nearly farcical territory. There were moments early on when the shift away from realism felt unearned; when the two character began arguing, the lights dimmed to a red haze as they engaged in fleeting moments of a choreographed conflict which illustrated their return to a well-worn routine. While an interesting representation of relationship roles, these stylised breaks in the narrative were too frequent considering how new the characters were to the audience. But as the two twenty-somethings transformed from stressed to chill to unhinged throughout the remainder of the production, their performances grew in mania and lost touch with reality, slipping into the high-drama of binge-worthy Netflix without the cleanly crafted conclusion.
McGrath and Simmons have great energy together, connecting well and matching each other even as the stakes became higher and higher. McGrath played his character’s downfall particularly well with a hilarious sincerity even while trapped in a chicken suit. The two were unpredictable and achieved a wildness to their performances which suited the script’s comedy. Mitchell also gave an excellent performance as the vibing best friend with some truly excellent lines delivered while mediating McGrath and Simmons’s struggles to de-stress.
Two Twenty Somethings doesn’t offer solutions to the many stressors facing young adults right now but it is a funny, cathartic cautionary tale for those who might want to just throw it all away for your childhood chicken shop dream.
Two Twenty Somethings Decide Never to Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again. Ever. is playing at Kings Cross Theatre from May 12th – 22nd
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