Left With Mixed Feelings

REVIEW: Mixed Up North – Wilton s Music Hall WHEN the dockers moved out of Wapping, home of Wilton s, the yuppies moved in – but they ve steered clear of Burnley, setting of this bold and controversial play.Consequently, as Aneesa (Steph

REVIEW: Mixed Up North - Wilton's Music Hall

WHEN the dockers moved out of Wapping, home of Wilton's, the yuppies moved in - but they've steered clear of Burnley, setting of this bold and controversial play.

Consequently, as Aneesa (Stephanie Street), one of the key characters, puts it: "What are we left with? Problems."

The contemporary production is set against the backdrop of the 'disturbances' ("We're not allowed to call them riots") which turned Burnley upside down in 2001.

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A youth theatre group (Street YY) is preparing for their latest performance, a sort of X Factor pastiche entitled The Rikki Rajah Show, shepherded by the maternal yet ever-so-slightly out-of-touch Trish (Celia Imrie, employing the instinctive sense of comic timing which served her so well in Victoria Wood - As Seen On TV).

Making good use of the standard play-within-a-play conceit, the performers, much like Shakespeare's Rude Mechanicals, reveal intimate details of their own lives with their spirited bickering and fighting.

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In doing so they each offer their own assessment of the tensions which have threatened to tear their town apart.

There was a nicely drawn contrast between Imrie's well-meaning yet patronising matriach and unruly teenagers like the chavvy Kylie (a nicely judged performance by Lisa Kerr) and star of the show Javed (Tyrone Lopez).

Caught in the middle are Jen (a scene-stealing performance from Mia Soteriou), who runs the youth centre in which the action occurs, and who is clearly modelled on Father Ted's Mrs Doyle ("Would you like a cup of tea?") and heavily pregnant director Bella (Kathryn O'Reilly).

Robin Soars' play unquestionably succeeded in engaging with the largely teenage audience. Several seats were reserved to enable them to sit alongside youngsters while delivering key lines,

and at one point they even passed slices of cake around. That said, after the interval the production did seem to drag somewhat as Soars adopted a slightly scattergun approach to get his message across.

Grooming, poverty, racism, mixed marriage, arranged marriage - all are covered in a frantic 20 minute period and it got a bit bewildering really.

Add in a few patchy performances (did O'Reilly really need to act like she was constantly on the verge of tears throughout the whole of the second half for example?) and you were left with the sense that several important points had been lost amidst all the sound and fury.

Having said that there was no denying the infectious enthusiasm of the cast, nor the warmth of the response which they elicited. To that extent, this brave production was a resounding success.

Ciaran McGrath

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