A punchy picture of a troubled teenage life
This article is from 2015.
Dressed in a scruffy school uniform, a teenage girl squirms under the spotlight. Tugging on her jumper, her face breaks into an awkward grin, and she launches headfirst into a turbulent stream-of-consciousness monologue, interspersed with voice-overs from friends and teachers, that paints an authentic and nuanced picture of a tempestuous teenage life.
Centering around the social life of 14 year old Poppy, Izzy Tennyson's Brute is a funny yet powerful exploration of the millieu of modern adolescence. In a world of happy-slapping and Jane Norman bags, Poppy is part of a ruthless social hierarchy: just as she is picked on by those above, so she picks on those below. But as the play unfolds, the veneer of petty teasing is peeled back to reveal the darker depths of teenage experience – an emotional morass of eating disorders, self-injury, and sexual abuse. Inspired by Tennyson's own school experience, the play captures with unflinching realism the harshest realities of adolescent existence.
Tennyson gives a solid turn as the hyperactive Poppy. While her incessantly energetic performance could use some variation and occasionally drifts close to caricature, Poppy remains a likeable and sympathetic protagonist throughout, despite her morally questionable actions. As her character's life begins to crumble around her, Tennyson's manic portrayal of Poppy's emotional breakdown is stunningly affective.
There are some pacing issues – the play takes a while to establish Poppy as a character and loses some of its impetus towards the end – but Brute captures the emotional turmoil of its flawed but lovable protagonist with success. Raw, honest, and emotionally compelling, it's a solid effort from a promising young writer.
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