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DNA (Tour - Manchester)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Can they get away with murder? Well, I’m not telling you because the answer is in doubt right up to the last as Dennis Kelly’s gripping, short, sharp, shocker, of a thriller, follows the misadventures of a group of teenagers as they try to cover up an accidental (?) murder.

The author himself is on something of a high at present – his best-know play Love And Money was first seen at the Exchange in 2006 but he is now entering the stage stratosphere, as co-writer of hit musical Matilda, and DNA itself figures highly in GCSE drama courses.

Back to the play…a black comedy set in a disturbing world of adolescent cruelty, where peer pressure and lack of empathy with others leads to the kids becoming persuaded to try get away with murder.

Trying hard to impress his peers, before the play opens, Adam was goaded into running across a motorway and to stand on the grille of a deep hole, where, as a laugh (!) his friends stone him and cause him to fall to his death.

The perpetrators are all guilty but after a plan mapped out by group leader Phil, they frame an innocent postman. As the situation gets more and more convoluted, some hold their nerve but the strain is just too much for others…

The writing – it was originally created for the National Theatre’s Connections initiative as a play to inspire young theatre companies – is sharp and really gets inside the characters’ heads.

This pacey production, from Hull Truck Theatre, directed and designed by Anthony Banks[, uses projections onto a rear bank of vertical slatted screens which very effectively and instantaneously shifts scenes from open countryside to town to dark woodland.

It’s a strong ensemble - if all a little old looking to be teenagers –  headed by ex-EastEnders [James Alexandrou
as the psychotically taciturn Phil and Leah Brotherhead as his motormouth sidekick.

There are no easy answers to the various dilemmas posed and it’s encouragingly tough stuff for those studying it for exam purposes, which meant a large proportion of night’s audience. Certainly a play for today.

- Alan Hulme


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