Dye in the Goldfish Bowl

Simon Community Scotland Warehouse, Glasgow

Marianne Gunn

four stars

AS A new creative avenue, the National Ensemble seems to be a winning route for Scottish Youth Theatre. Recruiting 21 young people – from Dumfries to Nairn – the creative team has been working on developing the ensemble's understanding of movement, music, writing and devising over a few months, rather than the intensive (and expensive) Summer School options available until now. In Dye in the Goldfish Bowl, their inaugural production, the young people (aged 16-25) have explored themes that seem scarily pertinent in our increasingly global context. Notions of surveillance, control and unchecked power pervade the piece, which retains maximum impact due to the vagueness of the imposing authority figures, whose manifesto is never clear (a clever decision from dramaturg David Cosgrove under Mary McCluskey's direction).

What was most striking about the devised piece was the way specific movement was incorporated into the characterisation, as if these people are stuck in a loop unable to escape their captivity or destiny. The very DNA of theatre company Frantic Assembly was evident as their practitioners had clearly explored stylised movement and performer physicality with the group to profound effect. The music was another welcome departure for SYT: Ross Brown's compositions and overall sound design added frenetic energy when needed and also suggested a sense of urban decay, which was compounded by the setting of an east end "warehouse" facility, kindly loaned by Simon Community Scotland.

Although not without moments of humour, and frequent bursts of "colourful" language, the lasting impression was that there may be a feeling of impotence and futility for a generation dismissed by the media as "snowflakes". Ultimately, the denouement suggests that apathy is never the solution and rebels will always find each other. A bold and unsettling experience, full of vitality and bite.

Registration for auditions for the National Ensemble 2018 open this week.

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