Interview: Yolanda Mercy, Quarter Life Crisis

“Alicia is a hot mess. She doesn’t know where she’s going in life. But everyone around her seems to know what they are doing. What does it mean to be an adult and when do you become one?”

Yolanda Mercy is Associate Artist at Ovalhouse, winner of the Rich Mix Small Story Big City Award, a visiting lecturer for Central School of Speech and Drama and a trustee of the National Youth Association. Incredibly, she also has time to be an actor and playwright, and this Easter weekend brings her new show, Quarter Life Crisis, to Ovalhouse as part of their FiRST BiTES series.

“I’d like audiences to take away with them the element of learning that it’s okay not to know what you’re doing with your life,” explains Yolanda. “We’re constantly bombarded with stories of people who are the same age as us, but seem to have it all together. I want audiences to leave the show empowered, knowing that even if you feel like you’re lost in life, there is a way out – and sometimes the clues within our names can lay the foundation of that empowerment.”

Yolanda was inspired to write the show by her own personal experience. “I felt like I was having a Quarter Life Crisis when my friends were getting married or having babies, and my biggest worry was that I have to surrender my 16-25 railcard.

“I’ve been thinking about this show for over a year, but I started working on it at ARC in June. Since then I’ve performed extracts of it at Brainchild’s Hatch, Vault festival and Ovalhouse theatre. The feedback and responses from the audience have been overwhelming – with a lot of audiences saying, ‘this show is so funny and really relatable’. Which is such an honour because I’m constantly told by audiences who have seen my shows like On The Edge Of Me, that my work is relatable.”

So, is this just a show for young people on the verge of adulthood? “No. I would say that this show is for anyone who has experienced a Quarter Life Crisis – who’s felt like everyone around them has gotten their life together quicker than they have.”

In December 2016, Yolanda was appointed Associate Artist at Ovalhouse, and Quarter Life Crisis is the first of many exciting projects she’ll be working on over the next two years. “I’m from south London. I live 12 minutes’ walk from the Ovalhouse. 6 minutes if I’m feeling lazy and need to rent a bike,” she says. “Being at this theatre where so many artists who I admire have gone through is such a huge achievement. I’ve worked really hard alongside my team Gemma Lloyd and Jade Lewis to constantly work to make exciting, thought provoking yet honest shows. I feel honoured that we’ve already started to build a loyal audience who come to see our shows time and time again. I’m so touched that people love our work. When we were doing On The Edge Of Me, we had audiences who saw the show three times. So it’s great to have a base like Ovalhouse for my audiences to access our shows and workshops.”

The show features live music, and a special guest from the local community – and there’s an element of audience participation too, although Yolanda’s keeping the details under her hat for now. “All I can say is be prepared to join in and have some fun…”

Quarter Life Crisis is at Ovalhouse from 13th-15th April.