Play gives food for thought

Ann FitzGerald

The young cast of Birmingham Rep's schoolscommunity tour premieres a new play by Debbie Isitt, Squealing Like a Pig, which presents a cast of young people in a grey, concrete wasteland, facing a tough decision: whether to tell that a crime has been committed.

Written with Isitt's typical verve and mix of naturalism and stylisation - the characters soliloquise in short stabs of racey poetry - the play, and its reception by a packed audience of pupils at Perry Barr School, clearly demonstrates that drama offers one of the most compelling ways of presenting moral issues to young people.

When hard man Mick relieves his frustrations with a bit of "Paki bashing", boasting about it to Chelsea, his ex-girlfriend, she screws up her courage to inform on him. Mick's gang exact revenge, but Isitt leaves us in no doubt that Chelsea's courage is a giant step forward.

The "Paki" concerned is a delightful, funny and wry character in an endearing portrait from Paul Sharma. Mick and his cronies don't even know him; they live in the same square mile with their lives running on parallel tracks. The strong performances plus taut direction from Joanna Read, make this a gripping evening's theatre.

But, in the name of realism, is it necessary to bludgeon young people's sensibilities with foul language and to plant ideas such as a conversation between two teenage girls which includes: "I'm so frustrated". "That's because you're a virgin."?

Squealing Like a Pig tours Birmingham and the West Midlands until November 23 and. then plays in the Rep Studio from November 26 to December 7. Box Office:(0121)236.4455.

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