There has been much hand-wringing about how lockdowns have affected children and young adults in Britain. But rarely do we hear directly from teenagers themselves about how they’ve felt in the pandemic. This eccentric, delightfully chaotic documentary (8 June, 11am) from Company Three youth theatre is a vivid portrait of adolescent experiences of the past year. Described as a “time capsule”, it has the feel of an audio collage, mixing anecdotes and interviews with clips recorded in teenagers’ homes, and musical and spoken word sequences.
It begins with Kezia (“So, I’m Kezia Adewale, I’m 17 years old, and I feel that sums me up: 17, Kezia, yeah”) reflecting on the anticlimax of her last day at school on 19 March 2020, before the first lockdown was announced: “The school were basically like, come in, get your stuff, and go… I don’t think it had the sadness that some people attach last days of school with, because we didn’t really think it was the last day.” Kezia, Shilton (“I’m pretty fun, I’m laid back”) and Bailey (“I’m known for having big eyes, and I don’t really like to smile in pictures”) anchor the episode, but we hear from a wide variety of voices, recorded on mobile phones, at different stages in the year.
We listen as one young woman washes her cousin’s hair. “I started going to bed at 7am. It got really bad,” one boy laughs sheepishly. “I’m in my kitchen: my kitchen has become the place where I can watch Netflix,” another teen says, explaining how he leans his phone against stacked-up packets of Mini Rolls to watch Peaky Blinders, while leaves gather on his childhood swing set outside. “That’s my quarantine life. Decent, decent.” In an American accent, Bailey gives out awards to his family. “Autumn. It’s supposed to have that busy, new shoes, back-to-school feeling. Not this year,” Kezia says.
It’s clear that the young people have been trusted to follow their instincts here, making connections and taking diversions that result in a much more surprising and strangely hopeful documentary than others I’ve heard on the pandemic. After a long digression about Indomie instant noodles, Kezia sighs. “I’m going off on a tangent. I go off on tangents all the time, like… I love doing that.”
BBC Radio 4
This article appears in the 02 Jun 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Return of the West