Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon review – Garrick Theatre, London ★★★☆☆

Photo: Danny Kaan

Review by Ethan Skillman

As a young acting student, I’ve found it increasingly more difficult to find works with large roles for teenagers and those that do are mainly just the annoying child of the main character or falls back into well-worn tropes. That’s why I was so pleased to see Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon open in the West End.

The show tells the story of a teenage girl (I won’t mention her name in order to preserve the reveal in the plot) played by Charithra Chandran (Bridgerton, Alex Rider) whose sister has recently passed after a six-year-long battle with anorexia. While admittedly, it doesn’t sound like the lightest material, I can assure you, it’s an incredibly funny show. Scenes are split up by hilarious voiceovers by Maxine Peake as the sensible scout leader Susan who introduces a different scout badge that is related to the main story and the majority of the show’s scenes are really funny, with Chandran expertly handling Rosie Day’s writing making me laugh on many occasions.

Not all the humour is perfect though – some of the more serious scenes could have been allowed to remain serious or sombre in tone without feeling the need to crowbar a joke in there and some of the jokes about the sister’s anorexia did feel like they were very close to the line, in my opinion – though I was unsure as to whether it actually crossed that line or not.

Photo: Danny Kaan

The show has a very simple set designed by Jasmine Swan that consists of a teenage bedroom that is monotone in colour. This is very effective as it showed the grief of the main character and, as the play continues, the set slowly gets articles of clothing thrown into different corners, which I felt showed the character’s life gaining normality very well and is certainly what my bedroom looked like at 14 years old (and still to this day, yikes!).

The monotone set is also used to project different videos onto the walls and set. While this is sometimes used effectively in some situations, it wasn’t always needed. The best uses for it were when Chandran was interacting with different characters seen in Polaroid pictures or when she was in a club and the lighting/video transported the space and added to the atmosphere. The times when it didn’t work, however, when there was, for example, a school assembly scene and the projection shot “School Assembly” onto the wall behind her. It felt very unneeded and I wished the creative team had just a little bit more faith in Chandran to portray that as she was excellent throughout.

While not perfect, Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon is definitely worth your time and I would especially urge any teenagers or young adults to watch this while it is still running. I am very much looking forward to whatever Rosie Day does next.

Instructions for a Teenage Armageddon is at the Garrick Theatre, London, on Sundays until 28 April