Review: The Hour… and Dna, Derby Theatre

University of Derby Theatre Arts students rehearsalsThey wanted to reveal what they were capable of on stage and the Theatre Arts students at the University of Derby proved just that with their energetic double bill in the city’s theatre last night.

They didn’t opt for an easy option to show off their talents and instead chose to present us with Dennis Kelly’s DNA a dark play with a harrowing twist and Peter Handke’s The Hour Before We Knew Nothing of Each Other – a play with 450 characters and no words which is based on selected observations of a town square.

The first half of our evening’s entertainment was The Hour… in which it was essential the students found a variety of ways to use the stage so they could maintain the rhythmic tempo of the characters walking past.

The choreography of life seen by a man sitting at a café table is created by hundreds of individual movements interwoven into a social mass by silent negotiations of pace and presence.

To recreate this on a stage must be a daunting prospect for any team – just getting the myriad of props in the right place had to have been a logistical challenge – but they pulled it off with aplomb.

All the characters were originally devised as nondescript and it was interesting to see how the actors had developed them and made them their own.

There was some great talent on display and all of them contributed to the collective spectacle but it has to be said that Shane Lynch stood out as someone we will probably be seeing more of in the future.

The second part of the double bill DNA, is a social comment which deals powerfully with hard-hitting relevant issues such as peer pressure and bullying, solidarity, guilt and violence.

It is about a group of misfit teenagers who accidently kill one of their classmates. They try to cover up the crime and then discover that their actions reunite their fractious lives. So then, why would they put things right when they had the chance?

This cast didn’t come across quite as intimidating as you might have imagined for a gang covering up a murder but in many ways this was apt as the characters therefore resonated more with the Derby audience.

The tone chosen by directors Ava Hunt and James Macpherson tied in with one of the core themes of the play that these teenagers were neither those bad or good people at opposite ends of society but rather just ordinary folk who make up the grey area in the middle.

Emily Pell, who played Leah, the ignored girlfriend of Phil the mastermind behind the cover-up plan, had one of the toughest parts and gave a spirited performance.

The plays can be seen again tonight at 7.30pm at Derby Theatre.

The rest of the cast for DNA was Mitchell Robbins, Angus Pickering, Charlotte Neale, Dillon North, Stuart Marno, Chelsea Watts, Daria Kulanowska, Harry Smith, Brandon Higton and Charlie Brentnall.

The cast of The Hour… was Jodie Blount, Kevin Doxey, Faith Goksu, Stacey Halford, Charlotte Jones, Shane Lynch, James Macpherson, Phoebe McNamara, Andy Mandoiu, Zoe Panayioti, Sara Poyner and Harry Smith.

The assistant directors were Lewis Pike and Charlotte Jones; production managers Leann Dawkes and Rebecca Emery; production assistant Daniel Ellis; lighting designer Sandy McAlister; lighting programmer Katy Williams; lighting operator Liam Hudson; sound designers Dan Clarkson and Lewis Pike; sound operator Zac Evans; video designers Naomi Baldwin and Kit Lane; costumes Megan Stevens and Charlie Giles; stage manager Chloe Pressley; deputy stage managers Hannah Talbot and Rebecca Jackson; assistant stage managers Jordan Daughtry and Sophie Williams; marketing Hannah Powell and Phoebe McNamara and stage crew Liam Hudson, Lee Moore, Simon Watson, Ash Nickols and Mark Kenny.

Amanda Penman