MIXED UP NORTH
by Robin Soans.
Wilton’s Music Hall Graces Alley off Ensign Street E1 8JB To 5 December 2009.
Run s 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7702 2789.
Review: Carole Woddis 12 November.
Political and gleefully ebullient.
Mixed relationships, integration, riots, violence. This is 21st century Britain, a melting pot which sometimes seems beyond its own control.
In 2001, Burnley in Lancashire suffered civil `disturbance’ when 200 youths took to the streets burning shops, offices and cars.
Robin Soans has gone back to investigate and in typical trademark verbatim style with Max Stafford Clark’s Out of Joint (A State Affair, Talking to Terrorists) has created an account that doesn’t point the finger at any one group but rather at social institutions and a media that over-dramatises. In the process they’ve also produced a tapestry that teems with life and vivid individuals.
This is political theatre with a small `p’ that as much as the differences highlights the many similarities in familial breakdown and unemployment on both sides of a community supposedly highly segregated along racial and religious lines.
By far the strongest episodes are the the real stories drawn from the young people and social workers interviewed revealing the often forgotten precursor to civic unrest – namely the ebb tide of industrial Britain, whole communities left bereft of meaning and purpose.
An argument for Broken Britain? Well this portrait certainly shows one part of it as undergoing great change as a consequence of Burnley’s demise as a flourishing mill town. As the piece brings out, it is tragically ironic that workers who came from the Indian sub-continent and Pakistan to work in Burnley mills were subsequently made redundant when the industry migrated to those countries because of cheaper labour costs.
But far from this creating an evening of doleful nostalgia, Soans’ admirable research leads instead to a gleefully ebullient evening. Led by Celia Imrie as a well meaning community worker, the very remarkable Stafford Clark (still working despite a devastating stroke) frames it within a story of a local group putting on a show – one of his favourite devices for showing the joy of theatre and its social usefulness.
A young and talented cast, many of them making their professional debuts, bring Burnley’s people to fully fledged life neatly puncturing tired stereotypes and re-humanising them beyond the usual negative headlines.
Sarfaz: Kashif Khan.
Aftab: Asif Khan.
Colin: Matthew Wait.
Bella: Kathryn O’Reilly.
Tamsin: Celia Imrie/Judith Amsenga.
Jen: Mia Soteriou.
Javed: Tyrone Lopez.
Kylie: Lisa Kerr.
Maureen: Claire Rafferty.
Uday: Muzz Khan.
Anessa: Stephanie Street.
Wendy: Rose Leslie.
Roy: Matthew Wait.
Bilal: Tyrone Lopez.
Catherine: Claire Rafferty.
Director: Max Stafford-Clark.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Tim Bray.
Sound: Andy Smith.
Composer: Felix Cross.
Associate director/Choreographer: Jessica Swale.
Assistant director: Elizabeth Newman.