Age, angst and expectation: Yolanda Mercy’s Quarter Life Crisis

Ever get the feel­ing life just isn’t going your way? You know: friends tak­ing work in their stride, post­ing hol­i­day pics, start­ing a fam­i­ly, and gen­er­al­ly appear­ing to live life large.

You, mean­while, are still strug­gling to get by – and real­i­ty bites.

Yolan­da Mer­cy’s Quar­ter Life Cri­sis is a stage play about pre­cise­ly this feeling.

“My friend was hav­ing a baby, my cousin was get­ting mar­ried, and I was try­ing to find ways to cheat the sys­tem and keep my Young Per­sons Rail­card,” the actor and play­wright tells Fringe Fre­quen­cy, when asked where the idea for this play came from. “As a result of this, I turned to my lap­top and start­ed to pen my fears of grow­ing up by writ­ing Quar­ter Life Cri­sis.”

Writ­ten and per­formed by Mer­cy, and direct­ed by Jade Lewis, the play explores age angst and gen­er­a­tional expec­ta­tions through the eyes of Niger­ian Lon­don­er, Alicia.

The play was recent­ly select­ed out hun­dreds of appli­cants to receive fund­ing from Under­bel­ly. This fund­ing is going towards help­ing Mer­cy and her com­pa­ny per­form the play at the renowned Edin­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe this August.

In order to raise the rest of the mon­ey they need to per­form at the Edin­burgh fes­ti­val, Mer­cy and Lewis have start­ed a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign. But more on that later.

“I always try to write from an honest place, which makes it so humbling when an audience says, ‘that’s my story on stage’” – Yolanda Mercy


“This show is all about hav­ing a good time,” says Lewis, when asked what audi­ences can expect from it.

“You can expect to have a laugh, hear some good rhythms and be a part of the the­atre sto­ry­telling expe­ri­ence. What I love to cre­ate in the­atre is a post-show dia­logue, and I feel Quar­ter Life Cri­sis leaves an audi­ence think­ing as well as want­i­ng to talk about what they have just experienced.”

As well as reflect­ing the mood many young peo­ple in Britain feel, that their future is less cer­tain than their par­ents’ when they were the same age, the play explores iden­ti­ty for young black Brits liv­ing in diaspora.

“I am sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Niger­ian,” Mer­cy explains. “When­ev­er I say that I feel teary, it’s because it reminds me of the strug­gle my ances­tors must have gone through to move here in the ’60s.

“So, when­ev­er I do my plays, espe­cial­ly Quar­ter Life Cri­sis, I ded­i­cate it to them. ’Cause with­out their strength, I wouldn’t be here mak­ing work. Which is why I val­ue the sto­ries we tell, and under­stand the huge respon­si­bil­i­ty I have when cre­at­ing my shows.”

Lewis adds that today’s social media-obsessed world, where every­one wants to share their lives with every­one else, puts strain on many of us that we don’t discuss.

“It can lead us to real­ly ques­tion our lives and the deci­sions we have made,” she says. “Also, many peo­ple, fam­i­ly and friends, can expect a lot from you and when things don’t go to their plan. You can be left feel­ing low, under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed and hav­ing to prove your­self. These ideas of hav­ing to please oth­ers can be our down­fall, and I think it takes a lot of courage and self-love to rise above that.”


Mer­cy, Lewis and their Lon­don-based cre­ative team have been sup­port­ed by Arts Coun­cil Eng­land to get Quar­ter Life Cri­sis to the place it is now. But Lewis explains that tak­ing the show to Edin­burgh dur­ing fes­ti­val time is a steep cost, even with the fund­ing they cur­rent­ly have.

“Due to Quar­ter Life Cri­sis going to Edin­burgh this means that there are some fund­ing pools that we do not have access to. This is why we have turned to crowd­fund­ing,” Lewis says.

“We also feel that it is a pos­i­tive way to seek funds because we are able to inter­act with our com­mu­ni­ties, net­works and also to bear liv­ing tes­ti­mo­ny to where there is a will, there is a way, which we hope inspir­ers oth­ers. We have also con­tact­ed organ­i­sa­tions and com­pa­nies to seek sup­port for spon­sor­ships and discounts.”

Lewis and Mer­cy have put togeth­er a fund­ing page, and com­pre­hen­sive break­down of what their £4,000 fund­ing goal will be used for. Their cam­paign ends on June 28, and at the time of pub­lish­ing, they’ve raised £585.

Depend­ing on how things go this sum­mer, they say they are hop­ing to put togeth­er an autumn or spring tour for the show.


Look, even if we did know the answer to that, we couldn’t tell you.

What we can say though is that ear­ly respons­es to the show have been very pos­i­tive, and audi­ences who have seen the company’s work, includ­ing their pre­vi­ous pro­duc­tion, On the Edge of Me, have said it had a last­ing impact on them.

Reflect­ing on her jour­ney so far, Lewis says: “I love direct­ing and cre­at­ing new work, and doing this play has enabled me to do that. I feel free, cre­ative and chal­lenged in the rehearsal process, which has led me to real­ly appre­ci­ate my job and my jour­ney as an adult.”

Mer­cy says: “I always try to write from an hon­est place, which makes it so hum­bling when an audi­ence says, ‘that’s my sto­ry on stage’. I love when I hear that, ’cause it means we are mak­ing strong, rel­e­vant and mean­ing­ful work.”

Find out more about Quar­ter Life Cri­sis, and how you can donate to the company’s Edin­burgh Fringe fund, on their crowd­fund­ing page.

You can find out more about Yolan­da Mer­cy and Jade Lewis on their per­son­al sites.

Image: Rebec­ca Pitt and Oth­er Richards (main, body image #1); Helen Mur­ray (body image #2). All images are copy­right of their respec­tive parties.