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Live Review: RAW by Chris O’Connell
June 11, 2015
Last week saw the return of independent Northern theatre company troublehouse, with their third production – Chris O’Connell’s RAW. Following performances of Equal Partners (July 2014) which was nominated for a ‘Best Newcomer’ award at 2014’s Greater Manchester Fringe, and the highly praised Time Of My Life (November 2014), the company, founded by Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) graduates Rick Bithell and Heather Carroll, took over the bottom floor of Manchester’s Joshua Brooks for a five night run of the gritty, violence led play directed by David Crowley.
A seven strong cast brought to life the trials and tribulations of dominant female Lex (Heather Carroll), a troubled teenage girl with anger issues stemming from a broken childhood and difficult upbringing. Together with her crew of fellow miscreants; Trainers (Amey Woodhall) Lorna (Emily Curtis) and Addy (John Weaver), Lex and her gang terrorise the local town, mugging victims and spray painting messages in an attempt to carve a name and reputation for themselves.
After one particularly harrowing incident, the loyalty of the individuals in the group is put into question, leading to a disagreement of epic proportions that lands Trainers in hospital. So begins an emotional rollercoaster, which in this instance featured dream sequences, hallucinations, brawls, bizarre rituals and fight scenes where red rose petals were used to symbolise blood – a simple yet effective method of overcoming the potential awkwardness of live combat sequences.
The dark, brickwork exposed basement of Joshua Brooks was the ideal venue for RAW, creating an intense and at times claustrophobic atmosphere, depicting the urban style of a city centre perfectly, further enhanced by the industrial surroundings of the room. The use of sound effects throughout the piece (both recorded and physically created) exaggerated the intimidation caused by Lex and her peers, and were especially prevalent in the opening scenes, when the girls attacked a passenger on a late night train with devastating effects.
Each character was expertly cast, and the actors were very subtle in their portrayals, making the play as a whole unnervingly believable. One part that particularly resonated was when Addy – having been abandoned by the rest of his ‘friends’ – continued to perform the tasks set to him by Lex alone in order to hold his life together through routine; eventually breaking down in a touching moment that saw him appear fragile and vulnerable, a stark contrast to the thuggish exterior he had shown throughout.
Having seen two of the three troublehouse productions thus far, I can safely say that this is one theatre establishment that is small yet perfectly formed. They take the time to choose material that highlights their strengths, and clearly have a real passion for what they are producing as a team. I have no qualms in placing a high recommendation on their future endeavours.
Words by Sophia Miles