Theatre Review: DNA (Birmingham REP)


Birmingham REP
Written by Dennis Kelly
Performed by Young REP
Reviewed by Georgia Kelly

It’s the perfect crime, meaning it wasn’t their fault. When Adam goes missing an investigation begins to unfold that targets exactly the wrong person. Those really responsible just need to keep their mouths shut until it all blows over.

In Dennis Kelly’s ‘DNA’ a group of teenagers try to see if Adam really will do anything to be a part of their little gang. But nothing turns out as they’d planned. Sure, they meant everything else they did to him – and have done for years – but they didn’t mean to make him fall through the old grate at the top of the hill. It’s dark, and it’s a long way down. Adam may be missing, but unlike everyone else at school, they know he won’t be coming back.

Through the weeks that follow we watch as the lives of the eleven teens involved begin to twist out of shape. Leah notices that somehow everyone is happier, somehow. Whether repentant or relieved the group begins to change after what they did to Adam. Each member of the eleven-strong cast delights and unnerves their audience in equal measure, with a notably powerful performance from Daniel J Kenton as the disturbingly pragmatic Phil.

The Young REP has always had a reputation for staging brilliant productions and nurturing local talent, and DNA is as much a testament to that as anything else. But what is also wonderful to see is how many young people filled the audience. And not just school groups. The REP proves again to be one of those theatres with a seemingly effortless ability to encourage and engage young people in theatre, especially with this production of DNA.

My one criticism of the piece is that it is played with too much comedy. DNA has its moments of laughter but sometimes this is stretched too far, often to the point where the truth of the words is lost. Though it entertains audiences it causes key monologues, plot shifts, and whole character developments to lose their weight. Ultimately many grittier aspects end up being undercut by the comedy flaring up around them.

What began to redeem the push for laughs, however, were the technical aspects of the production. We’re dragged kicking and screaming through the teenager’s ordeal through the vivid projections, stark lighting, and scratching audio that link it all together. Lighting designer Simon Bond, sound/AV designer Andy Gregory, and AV photographer Hannah Kelly encapsulate not only the enormously varied settings of the piece but also draw out the fear and guilt present in every character, and thrust it onto the audience too.

‘DNA’ is showing at The Birmingham REP until 7th April.


  1. Incredible performance! Went with my school and it was absolutely fantastic! The cast were phenomenal, especially Phil and Leah’s characters. loved it so much that me and my friend came to watch again. Deserves a strong 5 STARS!!!!!!!

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