by Rebecca Manley (based on original novel by Richard McSween)
Opening somewhat eerily as the ensemble go slowly around the stage moving props from one side to the other, with two televisions buzzing, I was worried that this adaptation of Richard MacSween's book might suffer from a lack of sensitivity that stylised theatre sometimes falls into. It was the combination of ensemble pieces like these and the interaction between the characters throughout the play that, in fact, contributed towards making the performance unique.
Set in Burnley in 2001, the play explores a community searching for its identity, and the impact on the residents of Victory Street as they become the centre of racist violence. This is seen through the eyes of Ellie, a 15 year old girl, who lives with her mum Angi, younger brother Matty and older brother Lewis, above their shop. "It's what I saw," she says.
The portrayal of Ellie and her friend Muzzy, a Muslim boy who lives next door, is one of the clearest examples of what I liked most about the play: the exploration of relationships between young people. The dynamic between the other characters is also well done - most interestingly, the relationship between Ellie and Lewis, as she sees him become more and more involved in BNP activity.
This interaction illustrates another point of the play: the difficulty in continuing a relationship between family members, or classmates, or neighbours when your points of view differ. While it looks at the problems that can arise within the family, it also displays the support - especially towards the end from Ellie towards Angi - that it can provide.
Another strong point was the exploration of varying levels of racism and intimidation within society, whether it's bullying in the school toilets or full on street riots.
The use of the ensemble in conjunction with the one on one interactions really helps explore the feeling of community, but also the relationships within that community. While the play confronts the issues of racism and violence, it also looks into the feelings we can have towards those experiencing the same situations, even if it is from a different angle.
Spiked with humour, energy and passion, the young cast successfully deliver the performance to make us think but also make us feel.
Very highly recommended.
The full version of Victory Street will be showing at The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester from 17 to 27 October 2007