Crime of the Century
Created by Dave Carey and Christine Niering
This morning Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, was reported in The Guardian as saying that in the UK, “close to 40% of children are predicted to be living in poverty two years from now, 16% of people over 65 live in relative poverty and millions of those who are in work are dependent upon various forms of charity to cope”.
Coincidentally, the UK is experiencing a rising level of knife crime, something that Chickenshed addresses in its tenth anniversary production of Crime of the Century.
An opening sequence of news clips projected onto a back screen reminds us of the continuing tragedy. Voiceovers throughout the show refer to a range of factors claimed to be contributing to the situation. There is mention of the social conditions people live in. A voice argues that we are “manufacturing social failure.” Others talk about the inadequacies of schools, the boredom kids experience, the drop-out rate.
Briefly, the cast create a visual image of the boredom and the sudden release of pent-up energy in play fights during the school playtime.
We are reminded of the troubled family background of some of the young people, with one lad describing regular beatings from a drunken father, beatings the lad claims demonstrate that the father loves him.
A highly choreographed dance of violent visual scenes by the cast of eleven dominates the show, never letting us forget the swift way sometimes trivial contact can move into violence that leaves in its wake distress and pain for others.
When Natty (Nathaniel Leigerwood) crosses the path of a group of young people fighting, one of them stabs him to death. They didn’t know him, he offered no threat. He was just in the wrong place.
The sequence than switches to the anguish of his mother (Cara McInanny), holding her stomach, her face contorted with grief.
In a separate sequence, we see the distress of the mother (Lauren Cambridge) of someone sentenced to prison for violence, a son lost to her for years to come.
The visually striking, dance-led piece never lets you forget the unnecessary waste and suffering of knife crime. No definitive explanation for it is pitched, but there are plenty of ideas here to spark discussion. Into the mix is thrown the plea to stop demonising the young because the problem is wider, concerns us all, and requires change in the world.