All The Ordinary Angels/Christmas Is Miles Away, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

When Giuseppe Raffa decides to retire from his ice-cream business, he launches a cold war within his family, in Nick Leather's new play All the Ordinary Angels. His two sons vie to see who can sell more of the white stuff, freeze out the other vendor and become papa's successor. Leather's fantasy - a darkish satirical comedy - is adroit in the way it depicts a male-dominated immigrant Italian family in rainy Manchester. But in the creation of the five characters - headed by the patriarchal Raffa (Peter Polycarpou) - Leather sometimes seems to be scraping the bottom of the freezer.

Toying with the affections of one brother and the lust of the other, Lulu - her elusiveness realised by Lucy Gaskell - has a dual role as good fairy and evil seductress, but her ambitions are never made quite clear. And when the fastest-selling ice cream in history turns out to contain an addictive, exotic substance, the play goes into meltdown. Michael Buffong's astute direction boasts a clever composite set of cardboard boxes designed by Es Devlin.

As well as announcing a major new playwriting competition, the Royal Exchange Theatre launched a second new play as part of its enterprising Little Manchester Season. In the Studio, the promising Chloe Moss' Christmas is Miles Away focuses on two teenage boys, mates since childhood, going through the prickly experience of growing up and apart.

One becomes a self-obsessed art student, the other serves in the first Gulf War, and both are mystified by what girls really want. The perceptive Moss captures the barely expressible intensity and tensions of adolescent life, and the bruising experience of growing up. A Stone Roses soundtrack puts the play firmly in the 1980s, while the accents and setting proclaim its North-west identity, but these could be kids anywhere at any time. Sarah Frankcom's production moves deftly between bedroom and Boggart Hole Clough, and the three hard-working actors - David Judge, Paul Stocker and Georgia Taylor - capture youthful angst and bewilderment that most of us would prefer to forget.

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