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The Darkness or Else the Light at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 11th Jun 2018 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Now that I am living in Scotland I am finding lots of theatrical gems in Edinburgh.

Not least of these is Strange Town, a registered charity, co-founded in 2008 by creative directors Steve Small (who created the Royal Lyceum’s education department and the award-winning Lyceum Youth Theatre) and Ruth Hollyman, who established the Festival Theatre’s education programme (and has lived in Tokyo where she set up a children’s theatre).

Because of them, each week 350 youngsters, from the ages of eight to 18, are engaged in learning theatre skills through their Youth Theatre groups, their Young Company, and their after-school drama clubs, and showcasing the work of emerging writers. And, as if that wasn’t enough, since 2011 their Young Actors’ Agency has been representing young actors from the ages of five to 25.

In their latest production, around 20 young performers have got together with writer Corinne Salisbury to create a piece about how social media makes us feel.

Who better to take us through the pitfalls than a teenage cast; no-one knows social media and its dark and light sides better than they do. On the bus home I heard someone say the production was like a school play – which is excusable. After all, it was a group of kids, only on this occasion it was a group of kids who, under the direction of professional director Catherine Exposito, were appearing on the stage of the Traverse Theatre and, later this month, the Leith Theatre and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Set against a black backcloth with circuit board markings on the floor, the production opens with the entrance of an aggressive group of hoodies in masks – the ‘voices’ of social media.

A mixed bunch of seven teenagers then find themselves invited to a meeting room in the middle of nowhere where a computer tells them that if they each tell their secrets everyone will be equal and there will be rewards.

What follows is how the situation affects different members of the group, especially when it ends with everyone having to take The Test which, because of their early activity on social media, predicts the lives they will leave.

It’s strong stuff, an important piece of theatre with, at the heart of it, the very generation who are part of it, telling the story with credibility and feeling.

Now I think I’ll just ditch my phone!

The Darkness or Else the Light can also be seen:

June 16-17: Leith Theatre

June 23-24: Scottish Storytelling Centre


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 2 months ago
    Thanks, Clare. Great to hear about this company and their good work onstage and off.
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