THE HOLY LAND
Pleasance, Edinburgh
August, 2001

**** Compelling snapshot of a whole community

Daragh Carville's play about the student quarter of Belfast is sharp and sensitive, and the National Youth Theatre perform it excellently.

The roads have names like Damascus Street and Jerusalem Street hence the play's title. The inhabitants include a druggie desperate for his next fix, a bunch of dealers who show respect for a dead comrade by snorting his ashes, a fractious Velvet Underground tribute band and an implausibly camp party host. This is a district of my home town that I used to know well, and Carville captures the tensions both personal and social, the comedy, tragedy and absurdity that go to make up the fabric of life in this area, but also in any community.

The script does not patronise the youthfulness of the company, and there is no element of "they did very well, considering..." in one's praise of the sixteen actors. Particularly admirable are David McAlinden as Terry, trying to extricate himself from heavy company, and Paul Kelly's effeminate butterfly Peter throwing his New Year's Eve party.

One of the joys of the Fringe is seeing emerging talent in youth and student companies, and while there is much dross, gems like this make the search worthwhile.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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