Three countries. Three teenagers. One average, life-altering day.
Natives is a new play currently on at the Southwark Playhouse in London. We’re used to working with film companies, but we were intrigued when Boundless Theatre, the company behind Natives, asked us if we’d consider creating resources for school groups based on the play.
I loved Glenn Waldron’s script, which takes an empathic and generous stance towards its teen protagonists. It sensitively explores what it means to be a ‘digital native’ – the quest for popularity, the warped intimacy, the intrusions of violence, the potential for real connection. There was plenty to bite into when it came to putting together this worksheet for GCSE and A-Level drama groups.
A few of us from the Damaris Media team were lucky enough to see Natives in performance earlier this week. The production – which stars Ella Purnell, Fionn Whitehead and Manish Gandhi – has already been getting rave reviews from the likes of The Guardian, The Metro and Theatre Full Stop, and it definitely lives up to all of this hype.
The action plays out in a small, intimate performance space, on a mostly bare stage which is illuminated by digital projections. It’s up to the three young leads to carry the story, which concerns three teenagers in different parts of the globe who must wrestle with the intersection between their digital lives and their ‘real’ ones. All three are excellent, but Purnell is the standout – recognisable from film roles in the likes of Never Let Me Go and Maleficent, she has a charismatic presence, funny, sharp and poignant by turns.
The 90-minute running time zips past, building to a powerful finale which posits a tentative hope for the future of the digital generation. That’s what’s so refreshing about Natives: it isn’t a critique of young people so much as the older generation who have bequeathed them a broken world.
‘Where are the grown-ups to do something, where are the grown-ups in this story?’
The play will hopefully have a long life both in performance (Boundless are planning to tour it) and in the classroom, where it could inspire teenagers to recognise the world-changing power they hold in their hands.
29 Mar – 22 Apr 2017
By Glenn Waldron
Directed by Rob Drummer
At Southwark Playhouse