FORMER EastEnder James Alexandrou leads the ensemble in Dennis Kelly’s compelling tale of adolescent cruelty, DNA, which tours to the Crucible Studio next week.
Since premiering at the National Theatre in 2008, DNA has fast become a contemporary classic, already a set text on the GCSE English syllabus,
Now revived by Hull Truck, DNA follows the story of a group of teenagers who try to cover their tracks after a game goes tragically wrong.
At first it brings them all together but harmony soon begins to unravel to the detriment of themselves and those around them.
Relationships break down, innocent people are punished and a final twist makes it even worse.
Alexandrou had never seen the play previously but “everyone seems to know it so I feel quite privileged doing this.
“This play doesn’t talk down to the characters and shows them as normal young kids in extraordinary circumstances rather than the tendency to bracket kids as either in gangs or people isolated from the rest of the world which is rubbish,” he says.
“The play starts after the deed has been done and my character deals with the covering up.”
How did the actor, still best known as Martin Fowler from the BBC1 soap, approach this role?
“You have to find stepping stones towards any character you are playing and I can understand certain circumstances but really we were helped by Dennis Kelly, the writer, who contributed greatly to the process,” he reports.
“It was like mentoring my character who is keeping his head down and feeling a bit scared.
“I could sympathise with him wanting to be part of the group and to be part of their life.
“These are normal kids hanging out and I was one of those once. These are just normal guys and it’s not so long ago that I have forgotten how school is one of the most stressful parts of your life and you have no idea of that at the time.
“The stage is black and white and minimal and his helps to make it seem like it could be happening anywhere.
“These kids could come from south London or Sheffield or anywhere. the cast come from all over the place so there are different accents and I think that’s a nice point to make.”
Presumably Alexandrou’s youth was very different.
“I was 11 when I started in EastEnders and I went to school at the same time.”
Being on TV didn’t stop the boy from a Greek Cypriot family in East London being given a hard time.
“If there’s something different about you whether you are overweight or cross-eyed you are going to get a ribbing. Every kid probably feels alone at some point,” he ventures.
“It’s only when you get a bit older you see that you weren’t different from everybody else.”
Alexandrou left the soap after 10 years when he was 21 and in the five years since has done a variety of work ranging from Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre to fronting a TV documentary on cannabis.
“The easiest thing to do is take everything that is offered but I didn’t fancy going off to the jungle to eat frogs and believed you need to maintain a certain level if you are going to have a long career. That’s what I have tried to do and people are still hiring me which is nice.”
DNA is at the Crucible Studio from next Thursday, February 9, to Saturday.