[img]http://hits.guardian.co.uk/b/ss/guardiangu-feeds/1/H.20.3/36995?ns=guardian&pageName=Mixed+Up+North+%7C+Theatre+review%3AArticle%3A1305411&ch=Stage&c3=Guardian&c4=Theatre%2CStage%2CCulture+section&c6=Michael+Billington&c7=09-Nov-16&c8=1305411&c9=Article&c10=Review&c11=Stage&c13=&c25=&c30=content&h2=GU%2FStage%2FTheatre[/img]Wilton's Music Hall, London
Robin Soans's verbatim play about Burnley has changed a good deal since I first saw it at Lamda 18 months ago. Twenty-two characters have been reduced to 13 and the material has been tightened. But it remains an impressive, eye-opening document about life in the post-industrial north: Burnley factories have closed because the multinationals ship raw materials to and from Pakistan, where labour will work for 20p a day.
The format is cumbersome. We are in a Burnley community centre where a youth group is dress-rehearsing a show about mixed-race issues; individuals, in the coffee break, tell us their life stories. But the second half takes off when the dress rehearsal is abandoned after the lead defects, and the cast hold a Q&A with the audience. This sparks a row between British-Asian Aneesa, who claims that "problems" are Burnley's biggest industry, and a local government officer who argues that negative images of the town destroys investment and aids the BNP.
I'd have liked more local politics, but Soans provides a mass of fascinating information, not least about the horrific "grooming" of young white girls by elderly Asian men, and gives Aneesa the most moving defence of arranged marriages I've heard on a British stage.
If one emerges better informed but not depressed, it is because of the implication that making mixed-race theatre is in itself a way of transcending Burnley's bleakness.
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Guardian: Mixed Up North | Theatre review
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