Adrian Richards and Alix Ross star in Advice for the Young at Heart. Photograph: Sarah London
Adrian Richards and Alix Ross star in Advice for the Young at Heart. Photograph: Sarah London

Much has been said and written about the riots which swept London in 2011. Everyone from politicians to social workers have voiced their opinions on the state of our youth and their future.

Attempting to get to grips with these issues, Advice for the Young at Heart sets out to examine both contemporaneous teenage experiences and young struggles from a previous era.

Award-winning playwright Roy Williams sets the scene with simultaneous plots relating the 1958 Notting Hill race riots and the events of 2011, telling its story through the eyes of 17 to 21-year-old characters.

The play, commissioned by the Shoreditch based Theatre Centre, features a cast of four relatively undiscovered emerging talents and specifically targets young audiences aged 14 and over.

This need to appeal to a current audience is reflected in segments of dialogue such as this from the sole female part, Candice: “Join a crew, you get family. You get brers who will die for you. Stand up for you. You get respect.”

Given the widespread frustration and disillusionment that large sections of inner city youth have recently expressed combined with the perception they are being ostracised, the goal of catering a play towards them is particularly ambitious.

With the direction and target of Roy Williams’ writing in mind, the acid test for the production will be the response of young people.

So far the play is doing well, with its autumn tour of schools and public venues across the country being extended to the spring.

A promotional YouTube video features a teacher of Year 11 drama students, who said: “It’s a piece of theatre which genuinely appeals to a young audience, which they didn’t find patronising or boring.”

The same clip also features pupils describing the production with words such as ‘amazing, brilliant, real, educational, moving, refreshing and emotional.’

While any such public airing will clearly highlight the most positive views, the fact that so many teenagers seem to relate to the play is notable.

Beyond the theatre, the need for young people to find their place in the world remains as strong as ever, especially after the London riots, and any attempt to encourage this is worthy of some attention.

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