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Chill

The Caves, Edinburgh
3 stars
Strange Town is a new theatre company of 18-25 year old performers, primarily former members of Lyceum Youth Theatre. Under the guidance of director Steve Small, this streetwise sounding ensemble aim to ‘produce theatre for young people like them,’ as their manifesto puts it, ‘who want to see performance that reflects the world they live in and the way they speak.’

If such a proclamation suggests a foundation based on revelatory cutting edge self-expression, think again. Because this inaugural devised work, performed for a one-night-stand before a partisan audience of mums, dads and mates, is as safe as houses on a very leafy street.

As a gang of 20-somethings reunite after five years to commemorate the death of one of their number, what unfolds is a televisual depiction of grief, loss and how former classroom peers move on from each other while at the same time clinging to the safety of familiarity. Its setting is a party in a seaside house, a conservative naturalistic framework in which a well-behaved mix of Oxford under-graduates, back-packers and computer programmers get drunk, take advantage of each other and set down hierarchies in what looks like a dress rehearsal for dinner dates to come.

As serious minded as this is, at the moment Strange Town’s place in the wider scheme of things isn’t clear. Most young people with something to say do it in an adult arena. One of the most gifted playwrights of the 1990s, Sarah Kane, had her first play, Blasted, produced when aged only 24. Brutal, poetic and utterly of the moment, it spoke volumes about the world we live in. Strange Town could learn much from its attitude.

The Herald, July 17th 2007

ends

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