Boy (Will Mytum) stands in front of us, rage and violence dancing in his bright blue eyes. He paces around Grace Venning‘s astro turfed stage like a predator stalking its prey – you can imagine him as the school bully, or the unhinged one that one day may crack and seek bloody vengeance on his classmates. He screams working class.
This is an entirely prejudiced opinion, but one that we as society make all too instantly about someone who chooses to wear a cap and tracksuit, a This Is England styled fashion that conceals the personality of a coiled spring or an unexploded bomb. It’s exactly the impression that writer/ director Niall Ransome seeks to create, one that forces us as an audience to swiftly check ourselves and rethink our snap judgements. Because Boy (Mytum) is only trying to do what he thinks is best for his little brother. That means running from a broken home, stealing & scrounging for food and dodging a system hellbent on tearing the two of them apart.
“These are our streets. They’re alright, to us”
Ransome’s FCUK’D, written entirely in verse, is brash and bold. It spits out lyrics over the top of Peter Wilson‘s intentionally uneasy soundscape, lines laced with vitriol for a capitalist government that have consistently shit on those living on the breadline. Mytum fires off a series of powerful retorts against the social care system, two fingers up to a society that looks down on those living on the council estates of Hull – rows of identical, dilapidated houses with gates hanging off their hinges and trolleys in the front yard.
These sections of spoken word are fuelled by the fire that dances in Mytum’s eyes, the points at which the core concept of FCUK’D comes together and rouses an audience reaction. Then there are moments that joyfully bounce along with childlike glee and abandon, the times when Boy and his little brother are playing in the rain or talking about insects. Ransome fills the world with tender details; Mytum’s fierce façade melts into an earnest, honest love for the one he is determined to protect, the one who can take advantages of opportunities that he never had.
“If you can’t hack it, pack it in”
Mytum switches between these emotional opposites in the blink of an eye, emphasising the cleverly placed imagery that Ransome incorporates into the script. But in between these highlights of FCUK’D are passages of forgettable monologue that try too hard to stick to the spoken word structure. Ransome’s work is strongest when at an emotional climax – whether it be the desperation to escape, or the tough guy act that shows the true intelligence inherent in Boy. He may not be book smart, but he has wits and street knowledge and understands the world. These are the glorious arias in FCUK’D’s spoken word opera. But the recitative, the narrative required to move the story along, is lacking in impact by comparison.
“It was the best I could do in the situation we were in”
As such, the ending to FCUK’D comes on too fast, a rush to get to an inevitable conclusion. This is a show that has the opportunity to counter the expected finale, one in which the system wins once more and subjugates any attempt to rally against its immovable attitude. But, even though it treads the path well worn, Ransome’s verse reminds us not to jump to judgement, to look past the aesthetic and empathise with the person beneath. Boy sees it as “the world versus me and you” – FCUK’D is a call for us to remind the two brothers that they aren’t completely alone.
Follow the link to an interview with writer/ director, Niall Ransome.