Theatre review: The Dark Room at the New Diorama Theatre

10:58 17 April 2012

A scene from The Dark Room at the New Diorama. Picture: Richard Davenport

A scene from The Dark Room at the New Diorama. Picture: Richard Davenport

Richard Davenport

David Bryne’s play takes Brecht and Lindsay Lohan teen movie Mean Girls as its inspirations

If you need reminding school was no fun, look no further than David Bryne’s Brechtian-inspired take on Mean Girls.

When making friends proves a non-starter for newbie Ruth (Madeleine MacMahon) she bullies and blackmails her way to head girl status, infiltrating the school rag, the tuckbox takings and the most popular girl’s Facebook page. Ah, to have access to the school server.

Each member of the cast encapsulates a school stereotype - prom queen, thug, do-gooder, gossip - and there are stand-out performances from the salacious editor of The Crow and gurner extraordinaire, Ethel (Leah Milner), and muesli-crunching supply teacher, June (Natalie York).

Whilst Byrne’s script is sharp, his witty staging sets this 60 minute production apart: blackboards on castors swirl around the stage, the school server has a voice of its own and the classic Brechtian devices of direct audience address and garnering sympathy for an odious protagonist are put to great effect.

Unfortunately we never find out why Ruth is such a mean girl and the influence of social media upon teenage classroom politics is only fleetingly explored.

Nonetheless, The Dark Room is a promising, funny and dynamic in-house debut. Well worth a look.

* The Dark Room is at the New Diorama Theatre, Triton Street, NW1, until April 28.

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