First time director Louisa Holloway has managed a difficult play extremely well. The staging was intelligent and slick and there were some stand out performances among the ensemble. Lauren Hyett as Leah was absolutely magnetic, carrying the show with her perfectly managed presence. Lauren had a massive number of lines to work through, and she handled them with a lightness of touch and firm view of who her character was.
Jared Fortune as John Tate was also excellent, resisting the temptation to caricature his character and bringing some beautifully played humanity into the role. Both of them presented deeply thought through, complex performances.
Some of the members of the cast overacted their parts at times. DNA has such a strong script that the actors need to submit to it, and some fought to give emphasis to lines that didn’t need an underscore to be powerful. I would have preferred a more understated approach, especially in the more climactic scenes - as an audience we already know how bad the situation is, we don’t need shouting to get it. If I was directing the show I would also have cut the final two scenes, as I felt they weren’t necessary and deflated the tension that had been built up. Leah and Phil’s final scene with each other was utterly beautiful, and I felt would have made a better ending.
The promenade style worked well, with the actors swirling about the audience (seated on rugs in the centre). This drove the story on nicely, but was done with a light hand - no annoying shuffling about for no reason, all the scene and space changes were well thought through. The setting of the riverside gardens was lovely, and I liked the minimalism of set and props. The attention of the show was firmly on the words and relationships, which is how I felt it should be.
Overall this was a competent, gripping production, offering much more than the usual gentle murder mystery in a college garden. Highly recommended, especially the Thursday show, as the playwright, Dennis Kelly, is doing a Q&A afterwards.