Being put on as part of Catz Arts Week, Dennis Kelly’s DNA has great appeal for those who have escaped the brutal dynamics of the classroom. It follows a group of teenagers as they collectively try to escape the consequences of their actions and are forced to cooperate in order to prevent the truth from being exposed.
This is a play about secrets, a play about fear. It is brutal terror which characterises the entire script and which is demanded from the cast as they confront disturbing facts about society and human nature. These are expounded by the character of Leah, played by Lauren Hyett, during her scenes with Phil (Jeremy Neumark Jones), the silent presence who simply and efficiently orchestrates the group’s plans for survival. These ponderous monologues provide the backbone of the play, a steady ground between the fraught panics and sudden mood swings found in the group scenes where behind every word there is a struggle for power. In this way the desperation of the particular is subsumed into idealised generalisations of happiness, life and responsibility forcing the audience, like Phil, to reconsider their own views.
The acting is of a high standard across the cast with Neumark Jones and Hyett overcoming the obstacles of too few and too many lines respectively. Meanwhile the director’s choice to situate the action in the round showcases even the minor characters and prevents the largely immobile scenes from lacking interest. Together these elements, along with moments of comic brilliance, ensure that, despite the evident immorality of the group’s plans, as a member of the audience you are silently willing them to succeed.
This stimulating production which places the action in an outdoor setting evocative of the group’s woodland hideout, DNA even has the playwright Dennis Kelly hosting a post-show discussion on Thursday 26th May. Both exciting and thought-provoking in equal measure, this play explores the everyday violence of youth and the individual’s struggle to gain control of their own existence.