By Darragh Byrne

From the April 27th edition of The Kilkenny Reporter.

Devious follow the success of Scratcher with the very different but equally as striking Shifting. The second part of their ‘In The Future When All’s Well’ trilogy in their Arts Office residency, this is about teenagers adrift in our modern abyss and kissing each other to make up the gaps in between.

The structure of the play is of an 18th birthday party where a bunch of expectant and slightly drunken girls wait for the lads to arrive and most importantly a cool band who are on their way down from Dublin.

In the second act all the secrets and lies come forward as the party goers are even more inebriated and there is the violent arrival of a third party with a hurley. To pass the time there is banter, casseroles and shifting: lots of shifting.

Written for the first time by a new writer who isn’t established, Devious have taken a gamble on a young playwright not yet out of his teenage years. John Kennedy has repaid this gamble with a fine piece of writing which is very tense and funny but equally not afraid to handle dark matters. Showing a huge maturity of approach while keeping an ear for his age group’s turn of phrase, this never feels forced or gauche.

John Morton, Ken McGuire and Angela Barrett must all take a bow for helping this young cast onto a larger stage. All veterans of youth theatre, this massive leap to a professional environment is made seamless by the quality of the blocking and their superb performances.

Peter O’Connor is the confused heart of the play, annoyed that his friends have left him behind. Alan Doyle is incredible as the boy trying to grow up to quickly at all costs and John Kennedy himself delivers a lovely turn as someone caught between romance and his hormones.

The girls too are uniformly excellent – Alex Christle is the American birthday girl who is struggling with her past, Aoibhín Murphy the Spar worker who will do anything to escape Kilkenny while Ruth Phelan who manages the tricky thing of making a drunk party girl flesh.

Special mention must however go to two character parts who stole the show – Connie Walsh was brilliant as the Sylvia Plath wannabe, while Colin O’Brien was a revelation as the Darina Allen obsessed chav.

Now this party is over it is sad that there isn’t a place for these superb actors to hone their craft, as for the next generation of young thespians locally there is only pantomime and musicals. Devious have proven two things with this play – that there is a hunger as well as a need for this kind of theatre that reflects teenager’s lives without condescending to them. John Hughes himself – that great chronicler of teen life, would have walked out of this play punching the air to the tune of ‘Don’t You Forget About Me!’

You can find this review, and more, at DeviousTheatre.com.

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