This dark, occasionally funny, and profound performance will leave you will a slightly uneasy feeling that only comes with seriously talented acting and thought-provoking direction.
Paperlight Theatrical brought Dennis Kelly’s DNA to life in their electrifying open dress run in preparation for their forthcoming run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
DNA explores the dynamics within a group of teenagers grappling with the death of one of their classmates as a result of their bullying. The cast, made up of members of Southampton University’s Theatre Group, deftly captured the vast range of characters – from the ostensible group leader, to the gossips, to the nervous wrecks. Despite being a relatively short show, the cast’s devotion to each character created an engaging whirlwind of a performance.
The limited tech capabilities (it being a dress run) had little negative impact on the experience of the show, as the cast had such a strong presence. The protagonists, Leah and Phil (played by Belle Priestly and Xander Searson) worked beautifully together to create completely opposing characters – one silent and inscrutable, the other ditzy and loquacious. Particularly memorable was Sophie Gardener’s performance as Beth, who goes from emotional and crumbly to completely hysterical. Paired with Eden Jack’s compelling performance of Adam (as well as Richard at other points in the play), the two pull you into a plane of hysteria. The rest of the cast were equally brilliant: Zayn Kahn captures Danny’s anxiety for the future endearingly; Saskia Blindloss and Emily Norman are excellent as Mary and Jan, respectively, keeping the audience engaged with their narration; Lily Akers is suitably gossipy and self-centred as Cathy; James Warner holds the tension within the group as Lou; and Douglas James comfortably fills the big character of John Tate, the pseudo team leader who spirals out of control.
The use of physical theatre, reminiscent of that of Frantic Assembly, saw the familiar story through a brand new lens and introduced completely original elements. The directional decisions of Joshua Newby and Mika Woods show a desire and ability to push boundaries, create a work of art on the stage, and take full advantage of the capabilities of the cast. The use of physical theatre, choreographed by Ellen Goggin, gives rise to some dream-like sequences amidst the angst of the rest of the play. Coupled with an original piano score (composed by cast member Douglas James), this made for a unique and captivating production.
This dark, occasionally funny, and profound performance will leave you will a slightly uneasy feeling that only comes with seriously talented acting and thought-provoking direction. Although disappointed that I was only able to see DNA in its dress-run form and not its fully polished Edinburgh potential, I am glad I got a chance to see what this talented group has been able to produce.
Catch Paperlight Theatrical’s DNA at Greenside, Infirmary Street (Olive Studio) from 14th-19th of August at 11:35am. Reserve your tickets:
Watch the trailer for Paperlight Theatrical’s DNA here: