SPY tackle DNA with style & aplomb

a review of opening night by Verity Mann

Saddleworth Players’ Youth (SPY) Theatre, have tackled Dennis Kelly’s ‘DNA’; a dark look at society’s response to cruelty, bullying, peer pressure and pack mentality with style and aplomb.  Having thoroughly enjoyed their Christmas Production, I was anticipating clever staging, slick scene changes and confident acting, and was not disappointed.

The SPYs are a close knit team, the on-stage chemistry palpable, and they bring to life this ensemble piece with discipline and commitment.  Entrances and exits are timed to perfection, with the hypnotic soundtrack connecting scenes and maintaining the atmosphere of collective menace.  The simple staging with backscreen projection gives us clearly demarked zones; a run down, litter strewn railing, a bench where the dysfunctional relationship between the garrulous Leah (Isobel Park) and taciturn Phil (Fletcher Harris) gradually disintegrates, and the wood; cleverly imagined with a mixture of leaf litter and handprints.  It is simple, effective, and stylishly cool.

DNA was developed ten years ago as a part of National Theatre’s Connections Scheme, which commissions playwrights to write plays for young performers aged fourteen to eighteen.  Its subject matter is gritty and hard hitting, the prose disjointed, naturalistic, and the Spy’s do a superb job of bringing each of their characters to life as they jostle with their consciences and the realisation of the consequences of their actions (plus get to grips with tricky monologues). We meet Mark (Scott Kingston Taylor), who is always in the know, and his side kick, the incredulous Jan (Gabriela Konakchieva); pack leader John (Jack Plowright and his menacing rival Richard (Conner Perry).  There is the ambitious Danni (Amelie Popplewell), the fragile Brian (Nico Thompson-Hinds) and the casually violent Carl (Dylan Gillooly). The focus of their cruelty is Adam, a difficult role played with sensitivity and confidence by Ben Mackey. 

The show was gripping and compelling, and you find yourself watching with grim fascination as the group scheme, thrive, fracture and ultimately disintegrate.

None of this great performance would be possible without Rebecca Wood’s imaginative direction and her ability to inspire the SPYs beyond acting to set design and decoration, creating promotional footage and stage management.  A massive thank you Rebecca – it’s great to see them going from strength to strength.

Also thanks to the Millgate volunteers: Tim Newbold for running lights, Michael Powis for running the box office, the bar staff and chaperones.

The last performance is tonight, the 7th July at 7.30pm with tickets still available.  Do come along to support our SPYs and give them the audience they deserve.

Verity Mann

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