Mixed Up North

Written by Robin Soans
Directed by Max Stafford-Clark
Liverpool Everyman (3rd-7th November 2009)

Reviewed by Nadia Baha

Picture yourself in a place up north, a town called Burnley, a place full of broken dreams, tensions, riots, unemployment and boredom. Who would like to go let alone live there, especially when you are young?

Trish, an idealistic and enthusiastic woman, works for Streetwise. She leads a youth group of white and Asian teenagers who act in a play together. This should make them get to know each other better. The play starts in the middle of rehearsal. The characters tell their stories, most of them sad and discouraging. Uday, Aneesa and Colin, for example – who are youth workers themselves now, but had a rough childhood – spent some time in prison or were forced into an arranged marriage. They would never have thought they could pick themselves up from the ground – and they did. Will Trish and Bella, the theatre director, be able to help the youth group with their problems?

The play is written in a lighthearted way on the outside, looking deeper into it, every sentence, as short as it might be, cuts deep. Especially when you know that the play is based on research in Burnley that took place from 2007-2008. The dialogues and the 'voices of Burnley' are authentic, which makes the play feel real and honest. As it says in the programme: “These are all attempts at a kind of truth.”

The cast - most of them brilliant young and promising actors - was perfect for the play. The actors and their 'counterparts' in the play were one person.

Mixed Up North gives a balanced view on the problems and hopes of young people in, not only Burnley but any place that is 'forgotten' until it is in the news again, for crime to serve as scapegoat for everything. A bit like Liverpool, when the UK suffered under Thatcher’s iron fist.

It might be naïve to think a bit of acting will ease the tensions ,but you have to start somewhere to get the mixed up north really mixed up.

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