The title of this play sparks a huge wave of nostalgia for me. It was also the title of X-Ray Spex’ debut album in 1978 and spawned a top 20 single of the same name. At the time I never realised what an intelligent and perceptive song it was. It has now become the inspiration for this piece written by Natalie Mitchell.
Ashley (Francesca Hardy) is 16 years old and an expert in sexual health. She has a comprehensive knowledge of every STI from chlamydia to syphilis; and is acknowledged as the fount of all knowledge at school. However, a little knowledge is sometimes a dangerous thing. Cleanliness and intimacy are not easy bedfellows as her relationship with boyfriend Ollie (Jake Richards) reaches a turning point. They’ve been dating for exactly three months and Ollie is about to crack the case, or so he thinks. Ollie is affectionate and sensitive but Ashley’s insecurities soon kick in. OCD is a further complication as Ollie tries his best to understand her.
Germ Free Adolescent is a bright and lively piece of theatre that takes us back to our own faltering steps in an adult world. We may look back and recall a smooth transition to maturity. But in retrospect it probably wasn’t that simple; and we can all recognise common ground in this thoughtfully written play. However, such themes are universal by their very nature. So, responsibility rests heavily on the writer to offer a fresh perspective. Natalie Mitchell pulls it off with the emphasis on mental health and Ashely’s apparent OCD. The awareness of mental frailty and its effect on physical expression brings home some basic truths. If this play had been written twenty years ago, Ashley’s character may well have been portrayed with a sense of frigidity. Now, she is confident, assertive and anxious to discuss her concerns.
It’s reassuring to learn that mental health is now discussed so openly, particularly where children and young adults are concerned. The pressures of growing up in a world driven by social media should never be overlooked or underestimated. Conversely, we should not over sensitise our reactions to life and the challenges we routinely face. Happily, Germ Free Adolescent strikes the right balance in attitude and perspective.
Writer: Natalie Mitchell
Director: Grace Gummer
Producer: Epsilon Productions
Box Office: 020 7234 0486
Booking Link: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/germ-free-adolescent/book-now
Booking Until: 9 November 2019