Directed by Jeremy Lindsay Taylor
Last One Standing Theatre Company
Erskineville Town Hall
104 Erskineville Road, Erskineville
Season: 5-9 September
Dennis Kelly is renowned for his dark and gritty plays dealing with the violent undercurrent that can be exposed in regular people. DNA meets these expectations, dealing with the brutality of a group of young people and their grappling to protect themselves from the bitter consequences of their actions. Jeremy Lindsay Taylor’s production taps into the innate comedy of the piece and allows us to sympathise with characters who have behaved in a despicable way, rendering destruction on another human being.
Many in the cast have an unnerving capacity to vacillate between being a relatively normal, quirky and likeable young person, to revealing messed up, violent inclinations. Bardiya McKinnon achieves an unsettling level of threat as the rational and calculating Phil, allowing his quiet and measured death threats to make a chilling impact. Taylor made an excellent and commendable decision in casting Jess-Belle Keogh and Alex Malone in the originally male roles of John Tate and Danny respectively. Whilst only featuring in one scene of the play, Keogh leaves her mark as she successfully intimidates and manipulates the people around her. She’s scary, and she owns it. Malone is delightful as the dentist-school hopeful, injecting a dash of comic flair at every opportunity. Millie Samuels does good work as the talkative Leah, delivering long monologues to Phil with little more than a shrug in response. At points momentum could have been better sustained, but considering the fat chunk of text she works with, Samuels does achieve variation and intrigue. Alfie Gledhill is strong as the grumbling Richard, contributing to the fast pace and propelling the action forward. James Fraser gives an engaging performance, showing us multiple sides of Brian, both pathetic and wildly unhinged.
The production design was open and fitting for the play and the number of transitions between scenes, with dirt and leaves on the ground and crates and chairs to create a lively space. During Fringe Season performance spaces are hot property, and the Erskineville Town Hall is not the optimum space for this production. Aim to get there early and mark your territory on a front row seat – when sitting in certain spots in the back row your vision is obscured. Unfortunately this does a disservice to the good work occurring on stage – it’s hard for an actor to be effective in affecting the audience if they can’t see your face.
Taylor’s production of this play highlights the protective and most selfish tendencies of human beings, as well as the inclination to vilify a minority for the advancement of the pack. We get to see a fantastic ensemble across the board that works well together to present a gamut of emotional response to crisis - there are too many good actors to mention. Don’t look too closely, or you could see traces of this society on the stage.