Venue: Taurus
Where: Manchester

Vertigo Theatre Company return home to Taurus with their production of Rage – a show that has been in a planning and workshop phase since 2006.

Set in an on-campus dorm room in a fictional American college, the action takes place in the immediate aftermath of a shooting incident by a student. Setting the play in the one room, which fills up with a group of students and a young teaching assistant as the college goes into lock-down, creates a claustrophobic environment which makes for an uncomfortable evening.

However, it is only uncomfortable because of the harrowing subject matter: much of the plot is taken up with characters recounting episodes which are based on factual reports by people caught up in similar, real events. These reports are interspersed with the characters finding out what is happening outside by watching news broadcasts, and their horror as people they know are listed among the dead.

The characters are disparate: a football jock, a popular cheerleader, a gay, a geek, bullies and victims. But all are forced to confront not only their relationship within their cliques but also how they relate to their peers around the college and their own vision of themselves. Ryan, the teaching assistant, starts out as a voice of reason and authority but his own experiences and the experiences of the others mean that he becomes a full part of the group.

The actors are all excellent, but Mathew Tattum as Danny and Rick Carter as Mark are particularly notable for their multifaceted performances as the horror unfolds.

Craig Hepworth and Adele Stanhope as writers and directors have created a well scripted, tightly directed and stunning piece of theatre. It cannot be easy to create something so harrowing in such a confined space and have it work to such great effect.

If there is a fault to be found with this production, it is perhaps that for the majority of the show the ideas are rather one-sided in their expression. However given the situation these people find themselves in it is difficult to imagine how that other side of the coin would work and still please an audience.

Vertigo Theatre Productions work well in the tiny space that is Taurus but it seems a shame that plays as good as this cannot reach a larger audience, as Rage certainly deserves one.

-Helen Jones