Review: The IT at Ilkley Playhouse

Rage, Rage, Rage! This week at Ilkley Playhouse, the greenroom students are performing a National Theatre Connections play, one which was commissioned for the 2021 season – ‘The IT’. And it is full of rage – and how right they are. More than ever, if the youth of this world are raging against it, then I am more than happy to add my voice to their angst. This is a piece for everyone – right now!

The cast are uniformly dressed in black trousers with red t-shirts which have a dark mark on the back and on closer examination, you can see an eye eerily peeping out. And so the ‘IT’. What is IT? (capitalised, not an acronym).

Most of the characters are unnamed, but one, Grace Fremantle, is at the centre of the piece. She is a ‘totally average person’, a description which is repeated often and with a passion which can only mean that she was only average….. until she wasn’t. Something has happened to Grace, something huge and unexpected from someone so average – and we don’t know what.

This is a fairly fevered piece – the young people rage against their education and its pressures, their parents and their expectations, social media and its manipulation – how many likes, favourites, followers. But this is only the first layer and the one that we expect – anyone reading this has been a teenager after all. But then this cast of actors remind us that their normal teenage worries are set against a much more troubling global backdrop – one which includes war, climate change, bitter rows over racism, transphobia – say her name ‘Brianna Ghey’. The threats of catastrophe are perhaps more present now that they have been for some generations and we feel their anxiety as they express it with such powerful articulation.

The ‘IT’ then, is an tangible manifestation of all of this which Grace Fremantle tries to contain within herself, covering herself up, sealing in her fears by ceasing to speak or engage until one day she can’t hold it in any longer and it bursts out of her, shocking those who have forever called her average.

To express fear about the aspects of life which affect young people is often the preserve of the young, but this is much more and because of that it is ultimately a positive piece. Seeing so clearly how this cast is troubled is a greater concern than they should shoulder of their own – it is for all of us. Knowing whether to act is a worry, wondering if it’s just you is a worry. Knowing that it’s everyone is powerful – something for us all and as a result, it’s empowering. We are better together.

There is an overwhelming sense that this young cast is telling us their own stories and it makes it compelling. But they are doing it for all of us and I, for one, am very glad. Bravo Greenroom and their directors Andrew Leggott and Lisa Debney. Get yourselves there and show them you care as deeply as they do.

It runs at Ilkley Playhouse in the Wildman Studio from March 21st to 23rd. Tickets can be booked by visiting or by calling 01943 609539.