Yolanda Mercy shines in 'Quarter Life Crisis,' a charming coming-of-age story
Quarter Life Crisis, Yolanda Mercy's hit one woman show, initially staged at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 and now been remounted for the Bridge's current repertory season, is a charmingly performed, neon-streaked exploration of growing up and growing into one's self.
It also operates as an inadvertent ode to London pre-Covid. Main character Alicia drifts through the city, from Camberwell to Streatham, from Peckham to the West End, popping into rammed house parties, sweaty clubs, raucous weddings, having one night stands and swiping through Tinder with nary a worry. There's a slight wistfulness to Mercy's descriptions of these situations, a sense of poignancy which filters through her lively, buoyant narration.
Director Jade Lewis enlists the help of a silhouetted DJ to add a sense of boisterous fun to the pre-set — a nice idea, but one which can only go so far in regards to cultivating a party atmosphere in a theatre which has had half its seats gutted. Indeed, Quarter Life Crisis can feel a little slight in the Bridge's space, but it's to Mercy and Lewis's credit that the show translates as well as it does — Mercy has an easy onstage charisma, and there are a few (distanced) moments of audience interaction which are handled with grace and deftness.
Mercy has a knack for observational comedy, and the elements of spoken word poetry which feed into her text give the piece a sense of rolling momentum. The characterful, colourful projections behind Mercy are surprisingly shapeshifting, constantly undercutting Alicia's narration — even if Alicia's continual pleas to Siri to tell her whether or not she's a grown-up feel a little on the nose.
In the end, Quarter Life Crisis is strongest when it delves into the gulf Alicia feels between her "Britishness" and her Nigerian heritage, and how that gap seeps into her sense of personal growth. The existential crisis of turning 26 and losing your 16-25 railcard, and the bone crushing monotony of working day to day in a job that doesn't mean particularly much to you is richened by the winding, curling tangents Mercy takes when considering how her parents married young, or how her grandparents owned businesses at her age. Stories about friends and family members getting married and having babies, while engagingly told and amusingly performed, feel less immediately gripping.
Regardless, Quarter Life Crisis is a lovingly crafted, warmly entertaining piece of work — Mercy is a delightful presence, and a joy to spend an evening with.
Quarter Life Crisis is playing at the Bridge Theatre through 17 October.
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