by Vivienne Frantzmann.

Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 19 February.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed & 8 Feb 2.30pm, Sat 4pm.
no evening performance 8 Feb.
BSL Signed 18 Feb.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.

then Lyric Theatre Lyric Square King Street Hammersmith W6 0GL 3 March-2 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 16, 23, 30 March 1.30pm, 19, 26 March, 2 April 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 0871 221 1729.

Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 February.

Forceful story of the power of lies.
If it both looks and feels like a prison, it could well be a school playground in these high-security days. A cage runs around the Royal Exchange stage, all the action taking place within it. So these bars also surround the domestic scenes. Aptly; for everyone in Vivienne Frantzmann’s new play is trapped inside their flaws.

Teacher Amanda (White) suffers for her ingrained liberal guilt, feeling it’s her fault she was pushed and sworn-at when trying to prevent teenager Jason (Black) attacking another pupil. To protect himself from exclusion and his father’s fury, Jason claims Amanda assaulted him, and used racist language, lies he makes others corroborate.

The father whom Jason admires for verbally trouncing the weak headteacher is aware of his own failures and his son’s unreliability. And, as Jason cajoles and bullies his circle into backing him, the victim Amanda helped maintains his moral purity, making him useless as a witness.

Her daughter Becky, a pupil at the school, tries to galvanise Amanda, while confronting the other pupils and vehemently complaining school rewards are lavished on the ill-behaved while the hard-working are ignored.

Shannon Tarbet gives Becky a fiery energy, while the expression in Malachi Kirby’s eyes indicates his mix of defiance and fear. Julia Ford and Ian Bartholomew have to do some repair work on the unlikely scale of their characters’ failings, while Jason’s friends are a little too easily persuaded to go along with him, despite their moments of doubt. And the coincidence in the fate of Becky and Jason’s dead parents is no more effective with the audience than with Becky’s use of it to try and build understanding with him.

Despite which – and a title (intended to indicate chaos) that exploits the far greater sufferings in Somalia – Frantzmann’s is a clear dissection of the power of lies also seen in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Matthew Dunster’s sharp production is beautifully played, even scene-changes contributing as the gang of playground friends watch more and more through the cage before moving in, invaders of Amanda’s life and peace of mind.

Jason: Malachi Kirby.
Chloe: Tara Hodge.
Saif: Farshid Rokey.
Chuggs: Tendayi Jembere.
Dee: Savannah Gordon-Liburd.
Jordon: Hammed Animashaun.
Firat: Michael Karim.
Amanda: Julia Ford.
Becky: Shannon Tarbet.
Chris: Ian Bartholomew.
Peter: Christian Dixon.
Ben: Fraser James.

Director: Matthew Dunster.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Ian Dickinson.
Voice coach: Wyllie Longmore.
Fight director: Kevin McCurdy.
Assistant director: Kim Pearce.

2011-02-10 11:46:09

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