Discontented Winter / House Remix

Bryony Lavery
Lyceum Youth Theatre
Traverse 2, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
(2004)

Discontented Winter / House Remix is an updated, addled, loose adaptation of Shakespeare's canon - Richard III in particular. While the script itself has more than a few flaws, the production does an excellent job showing off the talents of its young stars.

In his opening speech, lead character Ronan (Gregor Davidson) claims that this "remix" of modern life will ruminate on youth issues, but the issues writer Bryony Lavery chooses to explore seem to get pretty misty, pretty quick. Lavery's premiere issues seem to be easy ones. The world she constructs is black and white - when the world of adolescence is nothing if not full of shades of gray.

In particular, one questions her portrayal of young women. Of the three distinguishable female characters, one is named "Slapper" (played by Catriona Robertson), another is a popular girl in a pink prom dress (Serena, played by Nina Spencer), and the third is a Star-Trek obsessed social outcast (Eleanor Bird as Cheviot). Initially it seems that Serena may be planning to assert her Independent Woman status, but she soon confesses that her goal is to marry one of the two princes. With Slapper vascillating between Ronan and the elder Prince, Cheviot is left to carry the banner of teenage womanhood - and sadly, her disconnectedness from the world around her doesn't allow this character to do much in the way on comment on the status quo.

However, Lavery's writing does give plenty of opportunity for the young actors of the Lyceum Youth Theatre Company to show off their talents. Two of the most notable comic moments are the introduction of rival brothers Prince Ed and Prince Hal (played by Owen Horsley and John Macartney), and a speech made about midway through the play by Richard Trist, as secret agent/chauffer Brotherton. That Trist can not only make his way through the speech, which is rife with tongue-twisting phrases, but keep a straight face while he's doing it, is impressive.

The chorus - or "Flash Mob," as they're designated in the program - makes up nearly half the cast of twenty (it's surprising to realize the cast is so large, when its members move so easily in the restricted space of the Traverse 2 stage), responding to lines and setting scene changes. Each member of this group contributes to what is, overall, a highly successful and interesting use of extra bodies on stage - not least of all in the numerous sound and music sequences. They are well-supported by sound designer Tom Zwitserlood, whose coordination of the soundscape, cues, and music really brings the show together.

Directed by Colin Bradie, Discontented Winter / House Remix is a successful youth production. While the issues it tackles - poverty, homelessness, and the (lack of) interactions between social classes - are treated more or less lightly, and in the end it seems characters are resigned to accepting the designations of their classes without working to really change things, it's still an entertaining seventy minutes, and families in the Edinburgh area would be well-advised to take their kids to see this show (though it does contain some sexual situations and profanity). It's playing in Traverse 2 at the Traverse Theatre, until 28th February, 2004.

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Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody