THEATRE / Maps for Lost Lovers: The Place, London WC1

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The Independent Culture
Innovative is not a word you readily associate with the National Youth Theatre. Estimable organisation though it is, its idea of the avant-garde has seldom gone beyond modern dress Shakespeare and the odd rock musical. Anyone interested in visual theatre or familiar with the elegiac beauty of Steve Shill's work will find little of surprise here. Yet this devised multi-media piece - directed by Dean Byfield, of the always intriguing Engine House company, and designed by Laura Hopkins, who has worked with Mayhew and Edmunds - is ground-breaking for the NYT and wouldn't look out of place at the ICA. The endless pursuit of ideal love (romantic, patriotic, in exile and in lust) and the conflicts that inevitably arise are wittily and movingly probed in a series of scenes which use both film and projected images to chart journeys from youth to experience, from desire to disillusion. A smaller cast would give the piece sharper focus, but there is genuine passion and intelligence at work here and it is thrilling to see the young cast fashioning theatre from the gritty poetry of their everyday lives rather than merely declaiming blank verse.

To 5 Sept (071-387 0031)

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