Reviewed by Flossie Waite
Simon Mole, in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum
Reviewed at Half Moon Theatre
For ages 5-11
We have entered a new age of activism, with strikes and marches happening so often that efficient protestors wield reusable whiteboards rather than make new signs. This spirit of resistance has recruited many first-time protestors, and families and young people are getting involved en masse – UK organisers of the Women’s March encouraged participants to bring their children, offering activities and face-painting. Simon Mole and the V&A’s new production Friends For All is fortuitously timed, then, offering young audiences a lesson in sticking it to the man and standing up for your rights just when they’re most likely to need it.
The spoken-word, projection-filled play is inspired by the V&A Museum’s recent You Say You Want a Revolution exhibition, which explored the music, anti-establishment unrest, political engagement, and newly permissive culture of the late ‘60s. Friends For All is the story of Lexi, an 8 year old who struggles to make friends, and her Grandad, a tie-dye shirt-wearing former hippy who passes on wisdom learnt during his youth. When the class cool girl and her herd of followers (‘Suzie and the Suzies’) begin teasing Lexi, Grandad gives her a lesson in the ‘rebels and records’ of the 1960s: soon she’s staging a one-woman protest in a homemade ‘Fight the Power’ t-shirt.
In Grandad’s tutorial on protests, slogans are key, so that fighting for your rights sometimes feels closer to a catchy advertising campaign. This aside, in Friends For All being passionate and protecting what you believe in is important, but not the whole story. The play suggests that it’s just as vital for young people to question the rules and think for themselves, developing the critical thinking skills that will equip them for a future of informed decision-making and political awareness.
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