Too often when we see news reports about young people who have been placed on ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour Orders), we hear from the politician, the council and the neighbours. It’s rare to hear the voice of the young person, their dreams, their thoughts and their experiences.
Writer Louise Wallwein met three lads from Lancashire whilst researching a short film. They had all been tagged - their every move monitored. They had become outlaws - people saw the tag and not the person behind the label. The experience inspired Wallwein to write this gutsy play featuring three likeable characters who are permanently running.
Chris (Harley Bartles) has been tagged. He’s watched via CCTV and subject to a curfew. He has lots of energy but no real outlet for it. Bomber (Nicola Bentley) is his feisty Liverpudlian girlfriend. She thinks with her fists and adores Chris and his new-found status. Shedhead (Duggal Ram) feels indebted to Chris, who has taken the wrap for his childlike ways too many times.
These three lost souls dream of a better life, flee from the police, vigilantes and shopkeepers and debate the way they are represented by society at large. Wallwein successfully blends gritty dialogue with poetry which is both appealing and immediate.
Director Faroque Kahn makes full use of the small stage space by placing the cast in an outsized shopping trolley - their escape vehicle. Each actor delivers a realistic and multi-layered performance. Bartles explores Chris' vulnerability wonderfully. His character is as scared of the future as passers-by are of him. Bentley injects Bomber with energy, sorrow as well as hope, and Ram excels at physical comedy as the excitable Shedhed, who also cowers at the dangers awaiting him round the corner.
Leslie Travers’ excellent set design, with the huge trolley and pylons on each corner, coupled with Jeremy Nicholls and Mark Cruse's stunning use of video add another dimension to this fast-moving, funny and heart-breaking tale.
The young audience on the night I attended entered the theatre chatting during the opening scenes; by five ,minutes into the narrative they were gripped. This wonderful new play about society's desire to tag anything that moves is a real eye-opener.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at Manchester’s Contact Theatre)