This play, by SAS Productions, contains two parallel narratives – the first involving year 11 pupils getting ready for their prom, the second being the interspersed vignettes highlighting the separate gender roles to which men and women have to conform. Both strands raise relevant points about gender identity and roles in a humorous manner, using the narrative tropes and characterisation of a standard coming of age teen comedy such as the upcoming prom and the stock characters of the horny comic relief and the nerd.
In particular, current issues surrounding gender, such as boys wearing skirts are seamlessly worked into the plot, providing a more socially-aware aspect to the typical coming of age narrative whilst avoiding coming across as overly preachy. This is helped by the characters’ use of “un-PC” dialogue – for example, the use of the word “gay” as an insult by the comic relief – that authentically replicates the manner in which teenagers speak to each other and makes the inclusion of social issues appear more naturalistic.
Whilst both plot strands are well-written, the lack of connection between the two does make the transitions from one to the other seem jarring, with the main storyline, despite the inclusion of the gender-aware elements mentioned above, largely concerning itself with standard teenage issues such as falling in love and exam pressures, while the vignettes centre on the separate expectations for and experiences of boys/men and girls/women and place a greater emphasis on gender politics. Also an attempt to be meta late on in the play regarding one of the vignettes doesn’t fully work and feels forced into a narrative that otherwise doesn’t even acknowledge the fourth wall, let alone try to break it.
Despite these issues, Agenda is a funny yet engaging play dealing with the ups and downs of teenage life that is well acted by its young cast. Worth seeing if you want to watch a more socially-aware version of the classic teenage coming of age narrative.