It is interesting to find a play where the entire cast pretty much have equal billing and here in Claire Dowie’s Adult Child/Dead Child performed by the amateur Nottingham Playhouse Ensemble we have exactly that situation. Under Allie Spencer and Amanda Hall’s splendid direction it works very well in the Neville Studio space.
Dowie’s play boarders on the poetic with interesting repetitious language and allows for a very open interpretation utilising ensemble in its most engaging forms. The twelve strong cast range from teens to adults in this play about a troubled child who is cruelly locked away in a cupboard under the stairs by its parents. The house must be clean and spotless and nothing out of place except the child. The narrative explains that the child doesn’t have the language to appeal against any perceived wrong doings by the adults.
Cleverly what we don’t see – and might be expected – is the adults playing adults and the young people acting as the young people. Both age groups play and refer to all the characters young and old and each actor plays the victim child and any other needed including an imaginary friend called Benji.
Adult Child/Dead Child touches upon mental health issues together with the over-riding themes of misjudgement and judgemental behaviour as well as the apportionment of blame by and to the child. It is also about unrequited high parental expectations, emotional and physical recovery and friendship.
The Nottingham Playhouse Ensemble perform the play confidently and use the studio space in an interesting manner including the use of differing levels and group work to provide the audience with a constantly gripping and thought provoking hour at the theatre. The use of atmospheric background music helps to build the drama and tension.
Adult Child/Dead Child runs at the Neville Studio until 13th May.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe