- Adam Bloodworth
- 12 August 2019
Enjoyable lead performances in Gen Z play about social media and its link with anxiety
Butterflies addresses a much-written-about scenario but in a slightly new way. The story of the social media-obsessed millennial is a familiar one, but how does that translate to the Gen-Z audience, the generation crudely defined as not remembering life before the internet, and born from 1998 onwards?
Natasha Brotherdale Smith's show has certainly attracted the right crowd. The front row is stuffed with young people with 'Leavers 19' on the backs of their hoodies. They laugh continuously, particularly at satirical scenes featuring a social media influencer as she excitedly films her outfit (making sure to mention the brands that have paid for it) as she heads to an award show that night.
Smith, who also directs, has devised three realistic and credibly diverse teenagers who share one problem. One has a thick northern accent, another girl is excitedly dating women for the first time and the other is a social media influencer. Staged in one bedroom that acts as the private space for all three, each conveys well the feeling of being ridden with anxiety due to the overuse of mobile phones, and the damaging effect that a lack of face-to-face communication can have on personal relationships.
But rather than bash us around the head with worthy messaging about the dangers of mobile phone overuse, Butterflies is littered with humour and features clever linguistic tricks to draw out its themes.
It would be interesting to see a deeper consideration of the specific differences between millennials and Gen Z , as Gen Z will – in time – be the generation that defines whether or not mobile phone obsession and overuse is a chronic feature of our time, or just a brief millennial phase. In doing so, Butterflies would add something new to this ongoing debate. Yet, the show has youthful exuberance to spare which means there's still plenty to enjoy here.
ZOO Playground, until 26 Aug, 8.05pm, £10.