|Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012|
Considering the glorious weather outside, and Edinburgh’s propensity to change seasons within the space of four-and-a-half minutes, you’ll understand that I was planning to be unforgiving towards any less-than-stellar production that trapped me in the dungeons of The Space at North Bridge for an hour. Luckily for The Grand Youth Theatre Company, they held me spellbound within a theatrical cyberspace – one which resonated deeply with both my sense of humour and my personal experiences.
The glory of this production lies in its writing. As soon as the play opened with a joke about Willy Wonka and his suspicious past with those orange midgets, I was giggling my head off. It counters hilarious observations about the real world – where Augustus Gloop is the winner – with deeply emotional scenes about depression and social causes, and it’s the latter themes that ultimately transcend the cyberspace aspects of this play.
Admittedly, it’s not the most innovative plot ever: six teenagers attempt to virtually cut each others throats via a series of chatrooms. But this isn’t a plot that’s often well-staged, or delivered without being preachy. This production, in contrast, manages to hold up a mirror to the inner workings of teenagers’ minds without making them clichés or attempting to label them as degenerates. So if you’re a parent expecting to see a moral tirade about how terrible the internet is, you won’t find that... and conversely, if you’re a teenager expecting to see the internet held up as a glorious oracle of everything good in the world, you won’t find that either.
The quality of the acting floored me too. This is a young theatre company, but I think they could easily school some of their elder peers in learning how not to over-act. It’s perhaps the most honest production I’ve seen so far this festival. My only criticism involves the staging, which doesn’t take into account the limited sight-lines offered by the flat seating: if the theatre had been full I would have been confined to watching two characters instead of six, which would have been such a shame considering some of the nuanced background acting going on.
As an example of what youth theatre is doing at the moment, this production is a triumph. It proves that whatever the papers might say about those degenerate young people, they can still be witty, clever – and above all, socially aware.
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.