by Rona Munro.
Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7DH To 7 March 2015.
Mon-Fri 7.30pm Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 3 Mar.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 February.
Humanity and violence reborn from Manchester’s past.
They carried imperial-sounding names – Prussia, Bengal Tigers – but late-Victorian Manchester’s street-gangs, or scuttlers, were kings merely of the road whose name they took in Ancoats, the inner-city area that has stood for Mancunian mean streets since local author Elizabeth Gaskell (her husband a minister in Cross Street, within yards of. the Exchange) depicted it, mid-century, in Mary Barton.
Rona Munro’s new play has the unusual angle of seeing these male groups from the perspective of the young women around them. Competitive, battling gangs are viewed through people whose instinct is communality and co-operation. Belonging can give a girl somewhere to sleep for the night where she’s at least warm and safe.
Rona Morison’s Theresa moves through working-class streets with seeming impunity, through her strength of character and sense of self-preservation. Less safe is Chloe Harris’s Polly, the girl who’d be a boy and punished by the lads when what starts-out seeming a potential rape becomes an enforced style makeover, loosening her hair and debagging and re-dressing her. Women should not only know their place, but look the part too.
In this small world instinct breathes information. Experience suggests when the next gang clash will come (more likely when the mills are shut; when there are double-shifts everyone’s too busy to fight), but there’s always an instinctive element.
Around a core cast embodying the rawness, pugnacity and mix of group loyalty and rivalry, the women standing-out from the physically threatening men, Wils Wilson’s productions adds a chorus to crowd the manufacturing world suggested by Fly Davis’s set – topped by a mock-chandelier rising from the cotton-hands’ machine-work in a world where the product stands high above the grasp of the people who’ve just produced it in the gutters below.
Munro gives the play shape by the contrast of the young men who, in a way paralleling their industrial masters, fought for pride and power, and the young women who respond to a world of cold disadvantage by building relationships. With her committed, unshowy cast, marshalled with admirable fluency, Wilson’s production, under often gloomy lighting from Natasha Chivers, admirably recreates this world.
Theresa: Rona Morison.
Polly: Chloe Harris.
Margaret: Caitriona Ennis.
Joe: Tachia Newall.
Susan: Anna Krippa.
Jimmy: Dan Parr.
Thomas: David Judge.
Sean: Bryan Parry.
George: Kieran Urquhart.
Policeman: Duncan Ross.
Community Ensemble: Pawel Adamkiewicz, Ramial Aqeel, Abigayle Bartley, Casey Birks, Tabitha Bowman, Hayden Burns, Joe Callaghan, Michael Coleman, Duncan Crompton, Tyler Dobbs, John Dudley, Tom Durrant, Conor Glean, Jonah Gourley, Lois Griffiths-Balaam, Josh Hawson, Steven Ireland, Cassandra John-Baptiste, Tim Law, Calum Lill. Tom Lyons, Joseph Mihranian, Ceri Moss, Olivia Peers, Leyla Percival, Sonny Poontip, Adriano Primerano, Dave Ramsden, Duncan Ross, Lyndsay Rowan, Ciara Warburton.
Director: Wils Wilson.
Designer: Fly Davis.
Lighting: Natasha Chivers.
Sound: Peter Rice.
Composer/Musician: Denis Jones.
Movement: Eddie Kay for Frantic Assembly.
Assistant director: Charlottte Lewis.