Mixed Up North, Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Wednesday 07 October 2009
The appointment of the Olivier Award-winning director David Thacker as artistic director signals exciting times for Bolton's Octagon Theatre. Thacker, despite his RSC, National Theatre and Young Vic credentials, is best known for such TV hits as Waking the Dead, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Faith. Theatregoers will surely be beating a path to the Octagon in what promises to be an unmissable season in which he revisits such previous successes as All My Sons, Ghosts and Comedians.
It opened, however, with a brave venture from Out of Joint, a new docu-drama by Robin Soans called Mixed Up North. Based on verbatim accounts from young people associated with a mixed-race youth club in Burnley, and directed by Max Stafford-Clark, it takes the form of an open rehearsal of a multi-cultural theatre project. A 13-strong cast explores the aftermath of the "disturbances" that erupted in the former Lancashire mill town in 2001. What fires up several characters is not so much the influx of fancy-titled social and community workers or the official, hollow promises of change, but the tiptoeing around of contentious issues for fear of playing into the hands of the BNP. Soans does a bit of tiptoeing too.
But slowly the drama begins to grip and when the real stories emerge, sometimes haltingly, sometimes harrowingly, they are never less than compelling. Trish, played by Judith Amsenga (alternating in the role with Celia Imrie) is the sparky senior youth worker, with Kathryn O'Reilly striking an authentically strained note as the director of the community play.
There's concentrated acting from Stephanie Street as the university-educated girl whose arranged marriage in Bangladesh dashed her perceptions of life and of herself, from Rose Leslie as a victim of both bullying and rape and from Claire Rafferty and Tyrone Lopez, doubling effectively as both teenagers and partners in a supposedly model mixed marriage. But despite the punchy, raw characters there's a lack of emotional texture in a play that nevertheless deals with sensitive issues in an often funny and touching way.
Touring to 5 December ( www.outofjoint.co.uk)
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Finland schools: Subjects scrapped and replaced with 'topics' as country reforms its education system
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Jeremy Clarkson to host BBC's Have I Got News For You despite Top Gear exit
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz wanted to 'do something people would remember him for'