Adelaide Fringe 2014
A bleak tale about a bunch of punk teenagers having a fun night out, until they unexpectedly find themselves saddled with guilt and shame when their friend Gilly gets killed in a forest.
A taught drama revolving around a night of alcohol-fuelled cruel pranks resulting in a covered-up murder case, Charlaina Thompson, working with material by Dennis Kelley, makes DNA a teen thriller to remember.
The show opens with teenage girls, gritty and scruffy, with torn stockings and wild hair, defiantly standing tall as UK rap/electronic act The Streets booms throughout the studio. Through short sharp bursts of dialogue, we begin to unravel what happened one fateful night when the girl gang decided to have some fun in the woods.
Their idea of ‘fun’ involving making their tagalong friend (and whipping girl) Gilly drink toxic amounts of vodka. Then slapping her. Then burning cigarettes on her. And then finally, throwing rocks at her as she stumbles over a dark well, balancing on a grille. Until a rock hits her. And she falls.
“She was laughing,” says Cathy, one of the more sinister of the girls, about the events leading up to the fateful grille walk. “I swear, she was laughing…”
Considering their age, the actresses do tremendous work. There’s the aforementioned Cathy, a power-hungry Barbie doll; Jo, the domineering bully now cracking under stress; Danni, the neurotic wannabe dental student and dolt; Lou, the hanger-on; Rachel, the voice of reason; Leah, the manic sycophant; Brynne, the sensitive one; and Bec, the sociopathic leader of the pack.
All of them committed themselves, but the standouts for me were the girls who played Brynne and Bec. The character of Brynne was the most tragic in the play, second only to Gilly. The only one to seemingly feel any remorse over the girls’ actions, she soon becomes a drug-addled mess, providing moments of black comedy towards the end. Bec, meanwhile, exuded silent malice, and made even the act of eating sweets creepy.
The set was mainly bare except for backdrop of strips of canvas, where ‘the woods’ were projected. I thought the lighting was a bit strong at some points, but in silent music interludes it was used to great effect, creating a clash of sound and shadow. The silent musical interludes themselves were nothing short of brilliant, with the use of Florence + the Machine’s ‘Seven Devils’ at the finale being particularly inspired. And of course, there’s the ever-present prop that turns the ending of the play into quite a bleak one indeed.
More like ‘The Sadist Club’ instead of The Saddle Club, this one’s for those who like their thrillers black as pitch, and think their teenage years were a bi… ‘bit of a rough time’.