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DNA – Tales from the Golden Age, Golden Age Theatre

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer and Director: Ian Dixon Potter

Writer Ian Dixon Potter is angry, and across his Tales from the Golden Age series of talking head monologues, filmed in the last 12 months, his patience with the current government and the political tides of the last five years has worn out. His most recent 30-minute story DNA, now available via the Golden Age theatre YouTube channel, lands blow after blow using the outcomes of an ancestry DNA test to look at British identity.

Discovering she and her brother have different DNA profiles – hers Scandinavian, his British – Imogen sets out to track down her biological father through a process of elimination. Delighted to be freed from an increasingly burdensome concept of British identity, Imogen’s glee increases as she rails against the outcomes of Brexit and hopes to find a way to acknowledge her European allegiance.

The concept of DNA is a relatively thin one and perhaps more than Dixon Potter’s earlier works, Imogen feels like the unfiltered mouthpiece of the author. As a result, plot developments come too easily as Imogen quickly finds exactly what she is looking for, suffers no fall out within her family who openly admit the truth, and everyone embraces this life-changing and destabilising news without a second thought.

By extension, the audience learns almost nothing about Imogen across the 27-minute monologue. Basic facts about a troubled relationship with her father, her sexuality and her anger with Leave voters are all Dixon Potter provides, so with little sense of her personality, wider life or how the difficult childhood shaped her views, there is nothing to ground her as a multi-layered person with complex needs and edges.

Instead, almost all of Imogen’s dialogue turns into an unremitting rant about the ‘small minded bigots’ that she is ashamed to share an identity with. And the ferocity of that opinion is reinforced again and again, noting that ‘more than half of us are racists or fools’, tricked by politicians and despite admitting glorying in the grand deeds of famous Britons while not contributing anything herself, none of these views is properly excavated.

Creating a character who is staunchly Pro-Remain is fine, and likely to appeal to at least half the country, but Imogen is still a character and the dramatic interest in extreme opinions of any kind is to unpick them, to understand where they originate and why these ideas inspire such passionate commitment from individuals. But Dixon Potter doesn’t take the opportunity to step back and assess the causes and consequences of the very polarisation that his work continues to record.

Melanie Thompson is very convincing as Imogen within the confines of the material provided. She captures the anger and frustration with the government that Remain voters have felt and is forceful in delivering her character’s perspective and suggests the excitement and openness to reforming her own identity as the paternity story concludes.

DNA is staged across several short scenes which are unnecessarily truncated and there are only a couple of points in the drama where the timeframe changes from past to future. The text is a little expositional in places, with awkwardly inserted facts about superior Danish political and social systems combined with rants about post-Brexit Britain, but none of it feels real and Imogen’s search for her father gets lost in the mix.

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