The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester and Lyric Hammersmith are currently touring their latest co-production, the ineptly named Mogadishu. Fortunately, the production’s depiction of (we presume) an inner-city secondary comprehensive more than makes up for the title!

The play opens when a teacher is assaulted whilst trying to prevent a school yard fight breaking out, the next two and a half hours of twists and turns are determined by the decision of one of the lads to lie and scheme his way out of expulsion. However, victim becomes accused, the system breaks and further crises develop.

Vivienne Franzmann clearly has the ear when it comes to understanding both teenagers and family dynamics; her first play expertly picks out the nuances of adolescence speech to perfection, here displayed by an outstandingly strong cast.

The aforementioned victim, teacher Amanda (Jackie Clune) fights against the tide in the quest to prove that good lies in all, struggling against her supportive husband (Jason Barnett) and strong-willed daughter, Becky (Rosie Wyatt). The scenes between these three provide a strong grounding for the rest of the production – the strife of an angsty fourteen year old against her equally determined and stressed mother would ring true in many of the audience’s ears.

In fact, this entire play rings true in many ways. The entire premise is something which easily could and arguably has happened – the sad fact is it’s very likely this play has been virtually performed in secondary schools all over in real life. This is of course partially due to Franzmann’s stunning script as well as Matthew Dunster’s precisioned direction.

Ryan Calais Cameron as Jason has perhaps the hardest task of all, creating a self-centred bully able to deceive and manipulate with expertise on one hand yet a vulnerable boy on the other (especially in conversation with the physically towering Nicholas Beveney as father Ben) – this task is attacked with real gusto, ably supported by the rest of the energetic ensemble who have each crafted terribly real characters.

A solid, powerful production which wears perilously close to the bone, thoroughly recommended to anyone keen to see a masterfully composed and produced new play.

Daniel Whitley