REVIEW The IT, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

Written by Vivienne Franzmann and directed by Tim Howe, the Sherman’s own Creative Engagement Manager, The IT follows Grace Freemantle, a high schooler whose rage and powerlessness at an eroding future seems to have manifested as the insidious IT of the title. The creativity of the Sherman Youth Theatre is out in full force here, not only as actors but contributing to the artistic choices of the production, from the set and music to costume and movement choices, and their confidence and passion for the material lends a significance and immediacy to an incredibly timely play.

There’s a lovely sense of movement throughout, thanks to Tim Howe’s vibrant direction and the cast’s dynamic performances. It’s a credit to the skill on show that they maintain a consistent tone even as the show builds tension and shifts between comedy and horror, channeling John Hughes and John Carpenter in equal measure. It’s also wonderful to see a bilingual production, with the actors saying many of their lines in both English and Welsh. The central performance is wonderfully melancholy, painting an image of Grace Freemantle as someone who seems to be out of focus in everyone’s life, including her own, and the rest of the characters are similarly finely drawn, also acting collectively as a Greek chorus that plagues Grace’s existence.

The central motif of the rage monster is insidiously evocative – it’s something you truly should see for yourself, and it perfectly encapsulates the gnawing dread of horror caused by even the briefest glimpse at the news. The IT is the roaring into the void; the primal scream of a generation whose predecessors have ruined their world before they’ve even got a chance to make their place in it, because how can you plan for a future that could change at any moment? In many ways, the future of the world is faced with the same uncertainty and peril as the young people who are trying to fight for it.

The IT, whether a literal monster or a metaphorical rage at the imperilment of the planet, is a poignant expression of the terror we all feel when everything we once relied on seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. The story called to mind the painting Hope, by George Frederic Watts, in which everything seems lost, but one string remains. Hope is the last string – and even against seemingly-insurmountable odds, that single string is worth fighting for. Anger can paralyse, but it can also propel, and the Sherman Youth Theatre brilliantly convey both the righteous rage of Generation Z and the promise of a future worth saving. The IT is playing at the Sherman Theatre through Saturday 29th February.

Hope 1886 George Frederic Watts 1817-1904 Presented by George Frederic Watts 1897 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01640

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