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Looking for JJ at the Unicorn Theatre

Sarah O'Connell with Fergal and Orla Hanks

The Unicorn Theatre is seeking to expand the target audience from the under 12s to the under 18s.

If future productions are anything as good as the Pilot Theatre's adaptation of Anne Cassidy's prize-winning novel Looking for JJ, this is to be welcomed.

This really is for teenagers, bringing in themes of identity and forgiveness. The play starts with student Kate, played by Christina Baily, setting up her My Space page on her lap top. So far so normal, except a few weeks before Kate was Alice Tully, working in a coffee shop and enjoying her first real romance whilst waiting to go to University. And before that, well, she was the notorious JJ, the ten year old who killed her best friend in a fit of rage and confusion. The press want to find her. And JJ needs to decide first whether she deserves a life having taken another, and then how. Shedding an identity and creating a new one is not simply a case of wiping a hard drive.

There is a strong supporting cast. Melanie Ash plays a self absorbed and neglectful mother, with a creepy photographer "boyfriend" (Davood Ghadami). Alice gets a sense of what might have been, and even what could be, through a warm and loving social worker (Suzann McLean) and even her boyfriend's irritating little sister, played by Rochelle Gadd, confirms the value of family. At the end the plot manages a final twist that leaves the audience in no doubt about how difficult it will be for Kate to start again and escape her past. .

Fergal, aged 11, enjoyed the play and would recommend it for his age group. (The Unicorn recommendation is 11+.) However the story might resonate better with young people who themselves are in the process of moving into adulthood. The run lasts until 25 November and presents a real opportunity for young people too old for panto, but perhaps too young for full-length play, to discover a how absorbing and thought provoking good theatre can be.

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