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DNA (Hull Truck tour – Ipswich, New Wolsey Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Limbo, theologically speaking, is a type of holding-pen for the not-to-be redeemed. The troubled teenagers who people Dennis Kelly’s play have committed a serious crime in the shape of a prank which went badly wrong. Now they attempt a cover-up, one that’s equally criminal. But the repercussions of this are overwhelming, particularly on the more vulnerable members of the group. They are, in more than one sense of the word, in limbo.

It’s an intense and sombre piece of writing; the flashes of humour are equally dark, and the predominantly young audience in Ipswich had a nervous edge to its laughter. Director and designer Anthony Banks uses projections and a strip of artificial turf laid over a floor-cloth marked out as one of those ubiquitous QR codes to focus and to shift the action. Played without an interval, the tension is heightened by Alex Baranowski’s dark commentary of a score.

Central to the drama are Phil (James Alexandrou), borderline autistic and initiator of the tragedies, and Leah (Leah Brotherhead), a gabblemouth desperate for Phil to give her a modicum of attention, if not actual affection. The cover-up’s effects are most keenly felt by Brian (Daniel Francis-Swaby), one of any playground-bully’s most obvious targets, who cannot carry the burden of lies and far-reaching false accusations he’s called upon to make.

George Brockbanks’ Richard, Elexi Walker’s sassy Cathy and Emily Butterfield’s Lou cannot maintain their stance on the knife-edge between collective responsibility and an individual’s abrogation of liability. An alternative title for DNA might well be Perceptions for, throughout the drama, everything and everyone shape-shifts as though desperate to claw back into innocence. Except, of course, that innocence was never really a viable option.


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