Thursday, 26 February 2015

'Scuttlers' at the Manchester Royal Exchange

Chris Draper’s latest theatre review

 IF this show had been written, produced and performed by school students as a GCSE drama project they’d be well advised to switch subjects for it was dire in almost every aspect. The instant we entered the auditorium, long before the play commenced, our ears were assailed by loud, unpleasant electronic noises employed to create an edgy atmosphere.  Our discomfiture continued and when a leading character complained of earache we naturally identified the real cause long before the playwright proffered her own ludicrously metaphorical explanation – a butterfly in the lughole!   

In Northern Voices 10, Derek Pattison’s account of the lives of street gangs of Victorian Manchester more skilfully weaves together the atmosphere and activities of the Scuttlers than this two hour travesty.  To be fair the lads and lassies of the cast did their best with an irredeemable script populated by cardboard characters, backed by an annoying, atonal, clichéd sound score, and choreographed together with tiresome, repetitive movements of characters crossing and re-crossing the stage to no obvious effect but invariably accompanied by a surfeit of shouting.   

'This is the thrilling story of young people navigating a life without respect…that resonates with remarkable clarity 150 years on' claims the show’s publicity but it isn’t thrilling and there is no resonance. The production never gets beneath the skin of the Scuttlers and the play cares little for characterisation, empathy or analysis.  It amounts to no more than a superficial, voyeuristic, squint at the lower orders. A Jeremy Kyle show for Guardian readers at thirty quid a seat, £4.10 a pint, seventy quid for an artfully printed headscarf and £150 for a model dog in a duffel coat (all on offer at the Exchange).  

After filmmaker Shane Meadows tackled the far trickier topic of National Front gang-violence with such consummate skill in, 'This is England', it’s disappointing a decade later to find so little achieved here.  If the real Scuttlers turn up one night at the Exchange they will be seriously aggrieved.   

(Scuttlers by Rona Munrow, is in currently receiving its 'World Premier' at Manchester’ Royal Exchange Theatre, from 5th February to 7th March 2015)

1 comment:

Zyzzyzus floridanus said...

It was loud, and it did struggle to have any meaningful significance. Yet, it did play to a full-house when we went in mid-February, and according to Chris it was packed when he went to review the play. This may be because the Royal Ex. has such a good reputation for putting on excellent Theatre-in-the-Round.