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Children’s Crusade: Memoirs of a Teenage Radical by Philip de Gouveia

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Evie, a phenomenally bright but socially marginalised fifteen year-old, has had it with Western Civilization. Self-educated in the ideas of the Luddites, Mao and T.E. Lawrence, she wants to launch a mission against technology and the damage she believes it has wrought on the human race. She’s taken a look at human history and decided it’s time things changed. For good. But can she get her mobile-addicted classmates to join with her?
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This 45 minute audiodrama was originally broadcast as one of BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Dramas in February 2011, and is now available on Audible & iTunes; de Gouveia’s play is rather more political than most of those produced by the BBC, to the point of essentially being a radical manifesto aimed at youth.

de Gouveia’s central thesis is that technology has taken over our lives, that we are driven by it rather than driving it; that we are, to use the catchphrase of our protagonist Evie, the tools of our tools. The teenage Evie is a radical anti-technologist who has read Marx, Freud, and more, and understood it, and in de Gouveia’s hands this is not only believable but very compelling; she is the intellectual rebel outcast, the girl who stands in the corner of the playground and proselytises her low-tech philosophy to no one because she doesn’t know how to make friends. Her soliloquies are articulate and fascinatingly contrarian – theives as critiquing the idea of property, for instance – although at times ill thought through (“porn makes love impossible by damaging men” is neither contrarian nor true), and her tactics rather impressively grand, growing from manipulating her mock GCSEs to create an anagram of “DEFACED” to masterminding a full civil insurrection by teenagers.

Children’s Crusade: Memoirs of a Teenage Radical renders itself surprisingly plausible by using others to mediate Evie’s message, more popular teenagers conveying it outwards; and the consequences of her increasingly dramatic resistance are not what she expects or desires, but are effective all the same – something we can recognise, perhaps, in the current demonstrations against racism in the police forces of the United States. By making teenagers not instantly acolytes of Evie, de Gouveia has the excuse to convert them and therefore us to her point of view; and by allowing them to resist her arguments, he makes us also question them, although the drama inevitably falls down on her side, marking her out as philosophically right.

It’s a well-executed 45 minutes, with only a little slack – the conversation between Evie and her father serves to suggest that rather than genuine belief, she is motivated by issues around her parents; but at the same time it ranges over a variety of issues, with a burgeoning romance between Evie and Mikey portrayed absolutely fantastically, and a range of teenage characters all shown, including the prejudice of youth (“they’re emos, it takes them half an hour to get their trousers on”) and their potential and intelligence.

All in all, despite being a little heavy-handed, de Gouveia did an excellent job with Children’s Crusade: Memoirs of a Teenage Radical, packing an awful lot into three quarters of an hour, and I heartily recommend it to you all.

Cast
Evie ….. Leah Brotherhead
Mikey ….. Luke Treadaway
Carlton ….. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Kathy ….. Georgia Groome
Heather ….. Christine Kavanagh
Stuart ….. Nicholas Boulton
Eve ….. Sally Orrock
Adam ….. Iain Batchelor


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