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Telling it like it is

A new play by one of Britain's greatest playwrights is, at any time, an event. When Edward Bond's latest turns out to be his first for young people, it's also a feather in the cap for all those concerned - Birmingham's Big Brum TIE Company being the adventurous souls here.

If anyone thought that Bond would lower his sights for the young, At the Inland Sea will come as something of a shock. Aimed at 14 to 15-year-olds, it's a gruelling piece - a poem haunted by images of the Holocaust and the war in Bosnia and written with all the passion of an author whose commitment to exposing the evils of modern capitalism has hardly wavered in 30 years.

If anything, Bond's latest shows him stepping up a gear - the severity and seriousness of his message is delivered with extraordinary directness and sets the greatest of tests for a generation grown up on video and celluloid violence.

An omen and a warning, At the Inland Sea also, unfashionably, pleads for the art of storytelling as if Bond is saying we must keep passing on our stories to our children, they are the means by which we retain our humanity. He may show us a strange land - of mothers driven half mad by civil war, of raving ghosts laughing hysterically at barbaric acts of cruelty - but as long as we can pass on what we know, there is a chance the next generation will see and take some responsibility.

In many senses, it's a mysterious, often repetitive piece with little to distract us from the words other than a bed and a screen and sometimes unintelligible soundtrack.

But it's beautifully acted by Big Brum's three resident performers, especially Amanda Finney whose over-protective, over-worked single mum will no doubt strike a chord as she tries to impress upon her dreamy but sensitive adolescent son the importance of passing his exams. "Tell me a story", he wails. She can't; exhausted, she's forgotten. But Bond can - and has.

CAROLE WODDIS Touring in the autumn. Big Brum is also touring a new devised piece on suicide prevention. Details: 0121 382 2087.

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