4 stars ****
Edinburgh Playhouse

FOR THE THIRD TIME in ten days, Edinburgh audiences find themselves confronted with a small stage army of young people, not yet 20, whose sense of self seems so disrupted and deconstructed that the task of presenting it on stage strains at the very boundaries of the art-form.   The National Theatre of Scotland’s 365 is a show about eleven vulnerable young people seeking to make the transition from life in a care home to an independent existence; it boasts a script by leading playwright David Harrower, choreography by the great Steve Hoggett of Black Watch, and a range of stunning performances from a superb young cast.

What emerges from this high-powered collaboration, though, is not so much a play as a kind of scenic meditation on the inner journey of these youngsters, utterly dominated – on the huge Playhouse stage – by the beauty, the shifting shapes and the sheer scale of Georgia McGuinness’s spectacular set, exquisitely lit by Coln Grenfell.   From early scenes set in vivid  fragments of a small starter flat, through a dream-sequence in which one of the kids breaks down and transports the whole cast to a fairytale forest, Vicky Featherstone’s production often reads like an installation for a big set and small human actors; and only briefly, from time to time, does the energy and initiative pass either to the performers, or to David Harrower’s intermittently powerful script.

The effect could be irritating, featuring as it does transient visual effects which could probably keep one these youngsters in food and cigarettes for a year.   But in fact, it seems more like a brave, beautiful, complex attempt to imagine the inner landscape of a generation who have been failed by language, and by our old ways of structuring drama; beautiful, haunting, exasperating, drenched in sadness, but also with a sweetness, and an ache for lost dreams of love, that breaks the heart.

Joyce McMillan
Until 25 August


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