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DNA at Watford Palace Theatre*****
12:01pm Friday 11th May 2012 in Reviews
First staged in 2007, writer Dennis Kelly (co-writer of the hugely successful musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda) takes us on a dark spiralling journey into teenage peer pressure, the cruelty of adolescence and the sanity-threatening complexity of weaving a lie.
The young cast are all outstanding as the group of friends who find themselves in the position of covering up the murder of schoolmate Adam.
Director and designer Anthony Banks has the group retell Adam’s distressing demise in explicit and chilling detail on an appropriately sparse and evocatively lit set, which invites the viewer to focus on the brutal revelations, sheer panic and desperate decisions of the hapless teenagers.
James Alexandrou is particularly accomplished in the role of Phil, mastermind of machination, who the others look to for practical help and advice. His strong and silent presence is perfectly countered by his constantly ruminating, loquacious best friend Leah (superbly portrayed by Leah Brotherhead).
“I don’t think I write characters that are bad, I think I write characters that are trying to do the right thing, but are failing”, Kelly says of his writing and DNA sees his characters trying to make the best they can out of a complicated and bleak situation. Self-preservation takes precedence over morality and pack instinct over individuality.
The play has the feel of an allegorical tale and inevitably calls to mind William Golding’s Lord of the Flies as we examine Aristotelian theories of behaviour in urban post-modernity.
An excellent, engaging and highly pertinent study of human nature, friendship and peer pressure.