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Published on Thursday, 19 July 2012

ImageUnderground Venues, Theatre
Run ended
Reviewed by Elijah James

Mugged raises an important issue, reinforcing the need for knife amnesty.  What happens when things get out of control?  We've all seen the news, tragically often, of another young boy and another stabbing.  Or so it seems.  But when we see these images, does it leave a lasting impression on our minds?  The young cast from The Manor Academy school attempt to tackle these questions.

The Shadow Syndicate have put together a play about friendship; the larks, jibes, banter (and even roles of power) that exist between school kids, and the quirks of their relationships.  It's a boisterous affair from the beginning, with even the girls – Mel (Georgina Cotton) and Sophie (Megan Turner) – following suit.   The early jokes seemed to please the audience, and perhaps could have represented my own past ordeals at school, or anybody else's for that matter.  In this sense, Mugged is accessible.

But ultimately, it’s a tough piece to sit through.  Even though it starts off lightly, and with good pace, we're faced with a gritty drama about dealing with the brutal loss of a friend. We see six school kids confront their fears of whether "to cross" or to "go around", in the face of known muggers who lay in wait for them at the nearby playground.  The plot is built around the guilt of the character "Dig" (played by Ellis Gregory), who acquires a knife from an art shop and swaps it for some fags with his best mate Marky (Kaylum Vella).  Marky's bravery in confronting the muggers leads to his death.

The play is tastefully-constructed – the murder happens off-stage, with the ins-and-outs of what exactly happened originally left to our imaginations – but the histrionics surrounding this main plot line are overbearing, and at some points jarring.  Perhaps this is due to the understandable inexperience of the young cast, but it may also lack something in the writing.  Author Andrew Payne has chosen a very formulaic portrayal which the characters have to conform to, and the script relies on sentimentality far too much – most visibly at the end when "Dig" laments the deceased Marky through a funeral scene and a silent vigil.

This limited scope confines the play, which feels too much like a run-through in the drama school of the performers’ academy.  But the young actors respond well to their cues, with very few mistakes, and Ian Lund – the head of drama who directed the play – has taken responsibility for giving the younger ones a good opportunity.  Speaking to the cast after, I learnt of their ambitions to take their acting careers forward, further than this play.  I hope it’s been a good experience for them, and it’s encouraging and intriguing to think about where such a young cast might go next.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.