Visually spectacular and claustrophobic, the intimate Royal Exchange stage and auditorium filled with a large community ensemble, Scuttlers takes you back to the street gangs of 1885 Ancoats.  Supported by an original soundtrack that is both atmospheric and industrial, and with a simple but effective set, the theatre is transformed into the meeting place for two rival gangs from two nearby streets.

The story at the heart of this play is simple and has been told before, but the dialogue has the richness you would expect from Rona Munro.  More than anything it is a visual and sonic experience, half way between theatre and musical.  That’s not to take anything away from the talented cast, who bring the characters of 1885 Ancoats alive in all their poverty, aggression and short lives.  There are a few moments in the first half where the pace drops uncomfortably, but overall the energy and emotion is maintained.

It’s not as brutal as ‘Angel Meadow’, the site specific piece from HOME last year, but Scuttlers brings the characters more to the fore.  How much has changed in the 130 years?

Above all, it’s great to see Manchester theatre bring Manchester’s past to life.


Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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