Its Snows & DNA

Date 21st March 2024
Society Southport Dramatic Club
Venue Southport Little Theatre, Hoghton Street, Southport
Type of Production Play
Director Jonathon Plunkett - Deborah Bloom/Bernie Reynolds (Assistant Directors)

Report

Author: Jim Briscoe

IT SNOWS & DNA are two one-act plays staged/performed by Southport Dramatic Club Youth Theatre at Southport Little Theatre on Thursday, 21st March, 2024 as part of NT Connections. 

‘NT Connections’ is part of the National Theatres Annual Youth Theatre Festival.  Now in its twenty-ninth year, this programme commissions new plays, written by some of the UK’s most exciting writers and talented theatre-makers and is a platform for championing talented young people from across the UK.  2023/2024 sees NT Connections working with nearly 270 Youth Companies from across the UK. The festival is open to any Company, School, Youth Theatre or Voluntary Group that have young people aged between 13-19 years.

It Snows is a play penned by Bryony Lavery, Steven Hogget and Scott Graham… When it snows, the world gets a new chance – a new start. In this blanketed world, is everything as it seems?  Meet us as we travel to a small town somewhere in the UK like every small town you’ve seen before.  With the world laid bare and a chill in the air, this vibrant, physical piece explores what happens when everything changes, but nothing changes; when it’s the same, but definitely different.

As it says on ‘the tin’… this was ‘definitely different’!  A cast of thirteen, some playing multiple roles included Katie Allen and Charlie Gerring playing our two lead roles ‘Cameron Huntly’ and ‘Caitlin Amoretti’ respectively.  Other named roles included Mia Fox-Johnson - ‘Tamara’, Kiara Mawdsley - ‘Weird Girl’ and Joshua Jones – ‘Weird Girls brother’. Faith Richards - ‘Delisha’ and Lucy Roberts - ‘Posh Marlee Holmes-Spalding.  The following had multiple non named roles… Jasmine Brown, Serafina Campolucci-Bordi, Daisy Capie Witterick, Ella Jamieson, Florrie Halsall, and Bethany Powell

If I’m honest, I did find this play a little difficult to understand as did many others that I had chance to speak to throughout the evening. I wasn’t sure if there was an actual storyline… although there were many significant themes covered such as … ‘bullying’, ‘intimidation’, ‘threats’, gang violence’, ‘peer pressure’ … as well as ‘wild parties’, ‘gate crasher’, ‘disrespect for property’, ‘disrespect for people’, ‘lack or no consideration for others’… major topics, major issues all prevalent in society today!  We were also introduced to ‘SNOW’ and told that snow can and does change everything!  Running throughout this play was this developing teenage relationship between our two leads ‘Cameron’, the bored would-be photographer played by Katie Allen and ‘Caitlin’ who loves drama and mime played by Charlie Gerring. Cameron and Caitlin take us on a journey where we are told and shown the problems they encounter and try to overcome in an attempt to be together!  We also are introduced to a ‘forlorn girl’ known as ‘Weird Girl’ played by Kiara Mawdsley. Keira appears in a window; she doesn’t speak and bobs in and out of the play like a ‘ghost’!  At one point, she tosses from her window her ‘comfort blanket’ her ‘toy teddy bear’ which becomes lost for a time… supposedly covered by falling snow only to be found later when the snow melts. When found, there’s a note attached with the word ‘HELP’ written on it, not sure what the ‘cry for help’ was about!  She’s joined by an unknown male, who she obviously knows, and it wasn’t till I read my programme at home later that night, that I realised this was her brother… he arrives and is then taken away by two unidentified people!  I really didn’t understand the implications to this storyline at all and would never have thought the male as her brother if I’d not read it in programme!  We then have a ‘posh party’ at Marlee’s home… things get out of hand; uninvited guests arrive and property is damaged and guests abused!  All in all, this was a very busy play with so much going on … all of which I wanted to understand, but found it difficult, almost impossible to do!  But what wasn’t hard to understand or see was the effort, energy and enthusiasm given by each and every cast member to this play!  This was a really fast-moving modern drama and although I suggest we had two leads… I did feel that this was very much an ensemble piece, where the ‘whole’ was as ‘important’ or even ‘more important’ than any individual or lead!  It was very much a visual piece, with some imaginative choreographed movement… well done everyone…congrats on your efforts! 

DNA was penned by Dennis Kelly … this twenty-first century play, calls on society’s response to cruelty, bullying, peer pressure and pack mentality and brings into question, “Are these behaviours societal and learned, or are they inherent in us all?”  A group of teenagers do something bad, really bad; they panic and cover it up whilst implicating others!  But when they find that the cover-up unites them and brings harmony to their once fractious lives, there was little or no incentive on their part to put things right?

Wow, wow, wow… this was one powerful piece of theatre… nothing left to the imagination here!  We had a cast of eleven and again I’m going to suggest we had two leads, although there could well have been more! Emily Bloom and Orlando Campolucci-Bordi took on those respective lead roles of ‘Leah’ and ‘Phil’. Alex Kelly - ‘Eve’, Megan Barker - ‘Dani’, Lucy Brown - ‘Jan’, Eliza Briscoe - ‘Briony’, Ava Halsall – ‘Cathy’, Summer Molyneux – ‘Mark’, Faith Richards – ‘Richard’, Evie Twist – ‘Jo Tate’ and Anna Kantziki – ‘Lou’.   Without doubt…  every cast member worked their socks off and left nothing on that stage!  We had some amazing characters created who provided us with some great theatre and some amazing results!  If I can talk briefly about our leads… there’s a suggestion about a relationship between Leah and Phil, at best that would be generous!  Emily’s portrayal of ‘Leah’ was impressive; the monologues spoken to Orlando, most of which he chose to ignore, focusing mostly on his food and snacks, were impactive, understandable and delivered to perfection, be very proud Emily. Orlando’s character was cold and calculated, his ‘silence was deafening’ … but when he spoke… every word was devoid of empathy, but EVERYONE listened… be ever so proud sir!   I would have liked to individualise all the cast… but I can’t… but please be assured your efforts did not go unnoticed!  But I honestly couldn’t go on without mentioning Alex Kelly’s portrayal of ‘Eve’ when she ‘returned from the dead’!  OMG… her actions, demeanour, mannerisms, her facial expressions were completely believable and just told the story of the harrowing experience that she’d gone through… be ever so proud Alex… be proud everyone… you all were, without doubt, ‘special’!   

Production Team…  the challenge of staging these two plays was taken on board by Jonathon Plunkett (Director) assisted by Deborah Bloom and Bernie Reynolds. ‘It Snows’ also had Lucy Brown (Movement Director), who should be congratulated on some creative/intricate group movement.  Can I thank Jonathon for finding time to speak with me pre show and briefly at the end… your time, advise and information was helpful and informative!  In Jonathon’s programme notes he suggests that the selection of these two totally different plays was a way for him to showcase the talents of the SDC Youth Theatre by working with two very different texts and styles of playing.  Having now seen the two plays I can only concur with Jonathon, these were two very different plays, with two very different styles of performance and two very different challenges taken on by these talented young people… which can only be a benefit for their futures!

Staging/Tech… very minimalistic sets were used for both, which was more or less a pre- requisite allowing the free-flowing performances of both.  Chris Morris (Stage Manager) and his crew (Alan Morris, Elizebete Kozinda and Radley Haynes).  Lights and Sound enhanced both productions… Lighting Design by Andrea Shakesmyth-Clare / Lighting Operators Neil Langridge and Karen Nightingall.   Sound Design was by Jonathon Plunkett. Special Effects by Radley Haynes and the SDC Technical/Sound Department involved throughout. Costumes … very of the day… looked good and supported/enhanced the two productions throughout… would suggest without knowing, self-provided.

My first venture into the realms of NT Connections and what an experience it was.  Ultra-modern productions, leaving plenty of scope for self-thought and interpretation.  Congrats to both casts and the production and technical teams for their efforts… congrats!

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Stronger Together

Jim Briscoe
NODA NW
District 6 Rep