Thursday, 17 February 2011


A powerful end to what has been a great winter season at the Royal Exchange: Dr Faustus, The Lady From the Sea, The Bacchae, Zach and now the world premiere of Vivienne Franzmann's Bruntwood Award winning play, Mogadishu. Set in an inner city London school, the play is performed throughout within a somewhat battered rusty wire cage. It is fast moving, well directed and superbly acted by a young cast.

It is now nearing the end of its run at the Royal Exchange, but is transferring to the Lyric, Hammersmith. Anyway, even if you have no wish to read the rest of this blog, I strongly recommend that you look at this rehearsal video.

I was struck by the different modes of discourse that take place within the cage - the fast and at times incomprehensible language of the street in which every other sentence seems to end with "innit", the angry exchanges between children and adults, and the bureaucratic discourse used by the school authorities in their efforts to protect children and maybe their own backs.

The audience was white, middle class and predominantly grey haired! Regrettably that is not untypical of theatre audiences, unless a GCSE set text is being performed. The following advert from the theatre programme maybe gives the game away!
There were perhaps some young people there: at any rate two of the young male black actors received wolf whistles! The disconnect between subject of the play and audience is probably even better illustrated by the programme's usual advertisement for Manchester Grammar School, where I am sure the multi ethnic children who largely commute in from the outer parts of Greater Manchester still communicate using the language of Burke and Gibbon.

Anyway a powerful, gripping play. I cannot recommend it too highly, and I urge anyone who lives near London to go and see it at the Hammersmith Lyric.

Why Mogadishu? As is noted in the play , it is a place, although none of the kids can locate it. In a piece headed "Battleground", the programme associates the word with chaos and danger. In trawling the net I found the following comment written by an angry man who like most of us has probably never been there but is an expert nevertheless:
Mogadishu is a shithole because the people who live there is genetically inclined to be violent and criminal.
I’m not racist, but this is the historical truth.
We should throw a nuke bomb on that den of fanatics.
They don’t deserve any help from western countries. 
Within 20 or 30 years they will extinguish.

Finally, back to the Royal Exchange. I noticed that the seat in front of me had a small plaque bearing the name of Joyce Grenfell. The inner city school portrayed in Mogadishu seems on a different planet from her and the genteel world of"George Don't Do That".

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