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Published by: Kirstie Niland on 13th Feb 2015 | View all blogs by Kirstie Niland

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

SCUTTLERS erupts with a riot of raw energy as the Bengal Tigers mete out brutal revenge on a “kiddy fiddler”, kicking him into submission before egging on his victim to spit in his face.

As the angry gang members stamp their clogs, celebrating the man’s beating, the noise of this combined with the cotton mill is both deafening and menacing.

And so we are introduced to the young men and women of Manchester known as SCUTTLERS - fierce, straining to eliminate their prey and mark their territory, battling to be top dog.

But then the noise dies down when the mill runs out of cotton and the Bengal Tigers declare war on the Prussians. In moments of quiet, the tightly gripped masks of bravado slip to reveal the real boys and girls, shaped by the damage they have suffered.

Award-winning playwright Rona Munro has based SCUTTLERS on Manchester’s original gangs; recreating 1885 Ancoats on a bleak set which revolves, as the young mill workers lives do, around a huge weavers loom which doubles up as a jail cell.

As the youths wreak havoc on each other with fist fights and belts and in the end, fatally, with knives, we learn about their broken down relationships and good versus evil.

Centering on nine characters, supported by a community cast of 32, we see nurse Susan (Anna Krippa) and her son’s father, Soldier Joe (Tachia Newall) trying to stay free of the gangs. Both attempt to guide her brother George (Kieran Urquhart) away from trouble. Meanwhile the likeable and naive Thomas Clayton goes looking for it, along with “Tiger Cub” tomboy Polly.  Friends then foes, Sean (Bryan Parry) and Jimmy (Dan Parr) are the most ferocious whilst little Margaret (Caitriona Ennis) is the softest. But by far the leader of the pack is the feisty "mother" Tiger, Theresa (Rona Morison).

Wils Wilson’s direction brings a real taste of anarchy and clever use of the round. One minute we are surrounded by gang members baying for blood, the next everyone has scattered leaving two young men dying as the play reaches its bloody conclusion – and fittingly the rain (it wouldn’t be Manchester without it) pelts down.

We leave the Victorian gangs behind as the past blends into the present and the ghost of Polly remains rooted to the spot where blood has been spilt, and will be again and again and again – echoing Joe’s warning at the outset: “You can’t ever win a fight in this town. You win one, you start another.”

SCUTTLERS' extremely talented and energetic young cast work hard to bring the story of Manchester’s gangs to life, eliciting a range of reactions from the audience, from gasps to laughter. Entertaining and educational for today’s youth this is an ideal theatre trip for half term.

Go and see it if you think you’re hard enough!

Photographs by Jonathan Keenan

On until Saturday 7 March.

PERFORMANCE TIMES: Monday – Friday evenings: 7.30pm / Tuesday & Wednesday matinees: 2.30pm / Saturdays: 3.30pm and 8.00pm / Extra Matinee Tuesday 17 February at 2.30pm

TICKET PRICES: Standard tickets from £15.00 / Half Price Previews from £7.50 / Banquette tickets: £10

BOOK TICKETS: Box Office: 0161 833 9833 / online



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Kirstie. Entertaining and educational ... love it!
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