DNA deals with a whole host of contemporary issues through its portrayal of a particularly disaffected and alienated teenage-orientated view of the ‘modern’ world. The characters are loosely drawn and not often given space to comment on anything other than their immediate world and the complications of the relationships through which it is structured. The scenes are full of confrontational situations, often framed around a character addressing another with no response and at times this creates scenes constructed of a series of monologues. This lack of communication builds powerful dramatic tension and often explodes into furious argument between characters and within characters.
DNA, as a drama, takes the negativity and nihilism of a group of teenagers to a wholly different level to that which has been seen in literature before, eg. Catcher in the Rye. There is virtually no communication with the world outside the friendship group portrayed in the opening scenes. The world of the characters takes very little notice of the rest of society until faced with the consequences of an act of wilful and ‘mindless’ aggression. The aftermath of this act brings the characters closer together and pulls them apart.
When studying this play the reader should enjoy the power of the arguments and (hopefully) will be shocked by the immorality that underpins the choices made by some of the characters. This play has provoked intense discussion about right and wrong and our responsibility for each other.
The play is set in an indeterminate place and time, though clearly contemporary in speech and reference. The spirit of place is less important than the intensity of the characters. The power struggles within the group of teenagers and the volatility of certain characters create plenty of dramatic tension. The core themes of self and group identity, bullying, cruelty and responsibility should allow all young people to develop opinions about the consequences faced by the characters in this play. The writer has named the characters but left performers able to change names to suit their own preference. The character-constructs and the moral choices that they make are more important than a name.