Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Black Roses' Review: Killing of Sophie Lancaster

AS we entered the last week of the play 'Black Roses - The killing of Sophie Lancaster', I chatted with the father of the actress of the young lass Rachel Austin who took-off Sophie in the play in The Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.  He had just bought a copy of Northern Voices 13, with an interview with Sophie's mother, Sylvia Lancaster.  One woman had just said to me how awful it was, the more so for where it took place in a town called Bacup, that is so much a part of traditional Lancashire.  It is hard to believe that a town like that could have led to a crime of such bloody proportions as she and her boyfriend were kicked by a mob of local lads.  In the end she died of her wounds and her lover, Robert Maltby, was left traumatised and physically damaged. 

The play, in which Julie Hesmondalgh of Coronation Street plays Sophie’s mother Sylvia, has sold-out of the original tickets, and more space has been provided owing to extra demand for seats.  Last Saturday, at the matinee the audience was mostly female and middle-class.  This play originated on Radio Four, but the austere surroundings of The Studio set serve the theatrical purpose well.  Thus, we have the homely Mum philosophising, while the exotic 'Goth Girl' is hovering round her like a spectre from a different realm.  In an interview with Northern Voices last year, Sophie's mum, Sylvia, had said:  'For Sophie being a Goth was like being a "Traditional Goth", she was a Goth like Adam Ant's "New Romantics" and Boy George'.

Poetry by Simon Armitage and homespun philosophy by Sylvia Lancaster; the exotic and the everyday captured together in the same small space.  Individuality and the ordinary united.  During last Saturday's performance one man collapsed and the play had to be stopped.  Troubled teenager grows up to become an accidental martyr in Stubbylee Park, and an icon of the outsider is created.  The tension in the play thrives between mother and daughter, as the shadows form and the trainers stamp their marks on both Robert and Sophie:  aim for the face seemed to be the general war cry of the five-man mob.

Catherine Smyth in her book 'Weirdo, Mosher, Freak: the murder of sophie lancaster' (2010) price £7.99 available at the Cornerhouse Cinema Bookshop on Oxford Street in Manchester, wrote:  'Personally, I felt Sophie's murder was more akin to a Manchester, Liverpool or London crime, but not Bacup...  High unemployment, crime, alcohol abuse and drug dependency has meant that any beauty in Bacup is often overshadowed and the town's decline is obvious for all to see.'

Play runs until September 29th, 2012.  Tel.: 0161 833 9833 (www.sophielancasterfoundation.com)

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