“a mature and thought provoking reflection on the consequences of living in an economically beleaguered, run-down society”
People run away for different reasons, some serious and others trivial. What if the streets held the only option for you? Seventeen-year-old tracksuit clad Boy may have a lot of bravado, but in reality his world is crumbling. He lives in a decrepit council flat in Hull with his alcoholic mother and little brother Matty. It’s the lead up to Christmas and ‘the people in silver cars’, social services, are eager to split the inseparable brothers up and take Matty away.
The overall impression Niall Ransome’s poetic vernacular creates is of a helpless and vulnerable teenager yearning for something beyond. He hopes there is a world elsewhere. A world where he and his brother can live and be safe. Unsurprisingly, a pivotal point is when the authorities are stood on the other side of the bedroom door, attempting to separate the two. Will Mytum proves a wonderfully versatile actor, playing both boys whilst skilfully using verse in the rhythm of naturalistic dialogue. It’s here when a frantic Boy realises that although it might be a chance for his little brother to have a childhood in a happy home, he’s scared of losing him forever. Gripping his little brother’s hand, the two flee across fields and through towns, shoplifting food and ultimately stealing a car. These aren’t just juvenile pranks, they’re genuine acts of desperation.
Peter Wilson’s music thunders and vibrates a marked out playground with piles of autumn leaves, a streetlamp which often flickers and bathes Boy in its sodium light. Although no actual setting of a house, the few key pieces designer Grace Venning has cleverly chosen really make the stage feel like a housing estate. The piece is a mature and thought provoking reflection on the consequences of living in an economically beleaguered, run-down society. These problems don’t just go away at Christmas.
It is estimated that around 100,000 children run away from home every year. Niall Ransome, member of Olivier Award winning Mischief Theatre Company, explores this important issue in FCUK’D: an alternative show for the festive period, dealing with abandonment, loyalty, family, and the real experiences of young working-class lads in Britain today.
FCUK’D tells the brutal and heartfelt story of a teenage boy who kidnaps his younger brother in an attempt to flee his decrepit council flat and escape his daily encounters with the authorities. This one-man show, written entirely in verse, switches between the innocence of childhood and the very real struggle of being fcuk’d by an unfair system.
With only each other to rely on and with nowhere to turn, the boys must keep on the move to avoid being found and the consequences that this entails.
We spoke to director and writer Niall Ransome about the show …
FCUK’D has already been to a few places in the past year including the Vault and Brick Lane Festivals – have you made any changes to the show since these?
Absolutely! What’s been great about performing the show a few times before is being able to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s grown from a 15 min monologue to an hour long piece. I’ve always looked for the best way to tell this story and think the show we have now for the Bunker is very exciting!
You’re more known for comedy roles and being part of the Mischief Theatre Company than as a writer of a dramatic work such as FCUK’D – do you see yourself following a particular path in the future or do you prefer the variety?
I’ve always liked variety to be honest. Since leaving drama school I have primarily done comedy and working with Mischief for years has been fantastic. But there are other avenues I want to explore. I grew up watching plays in Northern theatres like the Hull Truck and Stephen Joseph and it’s been nice to return to that with FCUK’D. There’s a lot that interests me.
Will Mytum is ‘one to watch’ – currently making a name for himself, what made you choose him for the show?
I’ve been friends with Will for years and always thought of passing the role onto him when I couldn’t do it anymore! He’s a fantastic actor and brilliant to work with. Being a Northern lad himself I knew he’d connect to the piece a lot more and having moved to London at the same time we both know what it’s like to have left it behind. I’m excited to have him on-board.
The show deals with some quite heavy issues – is it hard to express such topics clearly in verse rather than as a traditional play?
Not really, the verse sort of came naturally. I’ve always loved poetry and Hull has such a rich history with poets such as Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith that it sort of fits. I find it a nice way to write, it sort of rolls out onto the page then you can stretch it out and play with the words. I focus on the characters and the story most of all. The issues come through that, it’s important that the stories and characters are at the forefront which I think helps the audience understand the issues on a deeper level than if they were just reading a pamphlet.
The show is the story of two brothers – is there a reason why it’s presented then as a one man performance?
I think one of the beautiful things about theatre is its ability to suspend an audience’s belief. If the audience have the opportunity to imagine their own Mattie (the little brother) it’s makes the end all the more personal and sad. It’s exciting that by the end of the play the audience can see him although there’s nothing there! You invite an audience to play an active part!
Three words to describe the show ?
Fast, proud and bold.
What are your hopes for the show after The Bunker?
We’ll have to wait and see! We’re quite keen to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe and we have a few people coming to see the show at the Bunker. I think it’s a piece that could really benefit from moving around. I think it’s an important story.
Do you feel that the government and society in general could be doing more to assist in issues such as those raised in FCUK’D?
Absolutely, as long as issues are still being talked about they are issues. 100,000 children run away from home each year, of course these are for a number of reasons but if those children are running away from abuse or lack of care more must be done to ensure they are given the love and support they deserve.
What do you hope the audience takes away with them?
I hope it makes them think a bit more about how we view others from different backgrounds. There is still a huge stigma in class and I believe we don’t always take time to understand the full story. I hope they can enjoy the play and relate to the characters.
On a lighter note, how will you be spending Christmas this year and what are your hopes for 2018?
I’m still in Comedy About a Bank Robbery until February so will be doing that as well as FCUK’D then will be back into auditions. We have plans to take FCUK’D on and I’m currently writing my second play.