Writer: Andrew Davies
Director: Rob Lees
Reviewer: John Roberts
Mad Theatre Company should be praised at taking a risk with this production, an adaptation of Andrew Davies’ bestselling book ‘Gangs of Manchester’. It’s not every day you walk into a theatre to a completely sold out show, and an atmosphere that is electric. I feel that this is partly to do with the amount of Juvenile performers in the cast, and its regional pull.
Set in the 1890’s amongst the lives of the scuttlers, a group youngsters who fight with knives and create trouble amongst other gangs, Angels with Manky Faces, follows the Bengal Tigers and more importantly follows the life of their leader Jimmy Johnson, played with gusto and lots of energy by Jack Williamson and his mischievous ways in love and fights!,
Director Rob Lee’s uses the convention of sepia toned video projected at the back of a bare black box stage throught the production to help the narrative move in time, the videos created using songs from 80’s and 90’s madchester and featuring a host of celebrity cameo’s including; Terry Christian, Graeme Hawley and John Henshaw are extremely well done, but theatrically they never really connect with the on stage action and really do just feel like a nice use of video to give the cast a bit of a break between scenes. Lee also has trouble in creating a clean clutter free stage when his twenty something cast are on stage, having no other choice but placing cast on chairs in the far corners for up to twenty minutes at a time, it’s the small attention to detail like this that can make a good show, brilliant, he may also want to have a word with several members of the cast who felt the need to lip everybody else’s words throughout the scenes.
Andrew Davies script is very funny throughout and has a nice punchy pace to it, but one feels that it was perhaps slightly too long and this production could have ran at just 40 minutes each half, keeping the impact strong. The use of bringing the scuttlers life to modern day is well done, but one couldn’t help feel that this should be more integral to the plot throughout the piece rather than the over long final scene of the show!
Praise must be given to three cast members who lit up the stage every time they appeared; Katelin Crawford, Lauren Lennon and Alana Thornton who generally put the rest of the cast to shame with the professionalism and excellent comic delivery with which each of them gave with real gusto.Other notable performances were given by Carol Bradley as Biddy Flanagan and James Creer as Little Bastard Seepage.
Overall this was an enjoyable evening at the theatre, but with a contrived script full of far too much bad language, and at times careless direction meant that this production is more akin to the dingy back streets of 1890’s Salford than the bright neon lit streets of modern day Piccadilly Gardens!
Angels with Manky Faces runs at the Library Theatre until Sat 22nd August – Returns only!