Melbourne Festival: Teenage Riot

I think there is something fascinating about teenage behaviour. I think it’s fascinating that adults are repulsed by it, or troubled by it, as though we didn’t do the same thing then or don’t do the exact same things now. Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed’s Teenage Riot is performed and co-created by eight teenagers. It’s funny and charming, moving and familiar and something you must see.

Teenage Riot. Photo by Mirjam Devriendt
Teenage Riot. Photo by Mirjam Devriendt

It’s the second part of trilogy that started with Once and for all we’re gonna tell you who we are so shut up and listen, which was seen in Melbourne in 2009 with many of the same cast. The final part, All That is Wrong, is also part of the Melbourne Festival.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom.  I moved into my brother’s old room because he’d put a lock on it before he moved out. I got to choose a new colour for my new room and I chose pink. I remember having two male friends on my bed and us laughing at how we were hanging out in my pink bits. I hated having people in my room unless they were people I’d brought home to spend the night with or maybe friends sleeping over after a party. I didn’t want my parents in there. I didn’t want them to look at my things or touch my stuff. I didn’t want to talk to them and I couldn’t find the right words to say to them anyway.

Teenage Riot is mostly performed via a video feed on a wall of a small room that the performers are crammed in to. I walked through it after the show; it smelled a bit and it was perfect.

This show did everything I wanted it to.

It’s kids fighting with their bodies, something’s going on – actually it’s been going on for years – but they never had the right words for it and they’re clawing to find a language for it. And it’s all a bit wrong. But I love the failure in it. I love them trying things out even if it shocks, or maybe for the shock. I love seeing them trying on their own bodies and messing up their bodies to see if they’ve grown into them. They’ve allowed themselves the freedom to fail and it’s exhilarating.

There’s also a reflective quality that shows they’re growing up (whatever that means). There are some too-earnest monologues ridden with the second-guessing and doubt of an adult theatre maker that asks, “Why are we doing this?” This didn’t happen in Once and for all … and I’m not sure they get it quite right.  At times it feels a bit forced, but maybe that’s what makes it all the more real. They’ve got these almost-adult lives and sometimes they think they’ve got a grasp of them and it all turns in to a riot anyway.

Go and see it before it closes and think about the way you (no matter how old you are) fight and reason and make mistakes and think you’re right and misunderstand and miscommunicate and are brutally honest and say too much and think with your knickers or your heart and f*** and feel. Wonder if you do it any different to them.

And if you think you do, chances are you’re wrong.

Kerith Manderson-Galvin is a Melbourne playwright and performer who has performed with MKA, won best writer at Short and Sweet Theatre in 2012 and is a guest reviewer for the Melbourne Festival.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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