Set in the bleak slums and shadowy alleys of Victorian Manchester and taking inspiration from the riots of 2011, Rona Munro’s Scuttlers brings vividly to life the harsh brutality of gang culture in the 1880’s.
With an unbelievable 50,000 people crammed into one square mile and 1 in 2 families being classed as ‘very poor’ gang membership offered a rare opportunity for excitement, adoration and status, a welcome distraction for many from the harsh reality of life in the mill. Brutal battles over territory were regularly fought, serious woundings were commonplace as Scuttlers sought to maim and scar their enemies.
We’re transported to Ancoates beneath the shadow of the mill, into the territory of the Tigers of Bengal Street, where the young cast await their prey. Award-winning director Wils Wilson along with assistant director Charlotte Lewis, transfer Munro’s words into edge of the seat action with the help of a formidable team, designer Fly Davis, lighting designer Natasha Chivers, sound designer Peter Rice, composer and musician Denis Jones and movement director Eddie Kay.
The Exhange is the perfect setting for this vibrant and passionate piece, sitting in the stalls was an incredible experience; you are well and truly in the thick of the action. The cast take you on an emotional journey, I felt nervous before a battle, emotional during tender moments, and at all times utterly engrossed and completely engaged by what was happening in front of and all around me. The cast are hugely impressive, passionate and fierce they proudly perform Munro’s work. Rona Morison is exceptional as Theresa, mother hen of the Tigers and all round tough nut, sidekicks Polly (Chloe Harris) and Margaret (Caitriona Ennis) are equally as strong, bringing attitude and humour respectively. Gang leaders Sean (Bryan Parry) and Jimmy (Dan Parr) portrayed their battle to be King of the Street fiercely, with superbly choreographed fight scenes that had the audience holding their breath. Royal Exchange regular David Judge gave a thought provoking performance as Thomas, a boy who just wanted to be somebody no matter what the cost.
The ending brings us right back to present day and reminds us of how the battles and wars of the past that meant everything at the time are so easily forgotten as we walk through the shadows of history never taking a moment to stop and think about what may have happened on the streets upon which we stroll. Exciting, thought provoking and engaging, Scuttlers will be playing at the Royal Exchange until Saturday 7th March.