Review: DNA University Drama Studio

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This is an arresting production by Sheffield University Theatre Company of a play by Dennis Kelly.

In some ways it’s reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, except that the children are teenagers and of both sexes. Its themes include cruelty, alienation, the need to belong, criminal responsibility, and the individual conscience.

At the centre of the play is Phil, played with ominous nonchalance by Josh Finan, a youth who is mostly silent, but coldly calculating when the group ask him what they should do to extricate themselves from a terrifying situation. Leah, Phil’s garrulous girlfriend, convincingly played by Essie Barrow, fluctuates between acquiescence and resistance.

The whole cast, expertly directed by Amy Wells, bring out the horror, banality, and humour of Kelly’s play; but also, less easily defined, a sense of mystery – as if these characters, for all their squalor, have a flickering awareness of something greater than themselves. This reveals itself in some of the stranger bits of dialogue.

The set uses a semi-abstract design to highlight the group’s marginal existence. Lighting and music are effectively used to create a sense of atmosphere and to link one scene with another. An intriguing, disconcerting, memorable experience.

Alan Payne