September 11, 2008

Hard-Hitting ‘Shell-Suit Iliad’ Tours During Violence Reduction Week


IT is not often that Achilles, Greek hero of The Iliad, is compared with a knife-wielding gang member.

Or that the heroes of Greek legend are portrayed as the thematic ancestors of the violent youth of modern Scotland.

But Fleeto, a tough and candid play set in the world of youth violence, takes on these classic archetypes and uses them to tell a story of wasted lives, casual brutality, and the consequences of violence - and will now tour the country to take its message nationwide.

Written and directed by Paddy Cunneen, Fleeto has been chosen to help launch a new initiative against violent crime, Violence Reduction Week, with a special performance for inmates at HM Young Offender Institution in Polmont.

It the latest example of a work of art - such as the National Theatre of Scotland's own Black Watch, or the Army's own Piper 's Trail - being used to help shine a spotlight on a particular contemporary issue.

Cunneen - whose play was first shown as part of the A Play, A Pie and A Pint season at the Oran Mor venue in Glasgow - will also recruit young men from Polmont for performance on stage. Six inmates will be used as extras in the 55minute production, which will be performed four times to an invited audience at YOI HMP Polmont on September 24 and 25. The performances are part of a 33-performance tour that will visit 19 venues , and at each venue six young people will be selected to perform on stage.

Fleeto uses blank verse to tell its tale of a modern-day Glasgow street stabbing, in which a young person is killed by a gang while trying to defend his friend.

It was described as a "shell suit and hoodie-clad re-imagining of The Iliad" by The Herald's theatre critic Neil Cooper when it was first shown in November last year.

Mr Cunneen said that the comparisons between ancient stories and modern times are valid, and hopes the play can tell its story, and convey its message, more strongly because of it.

"In the Iliad, we're talking about a gang of Greek men fighting a gang of Trojan men because a woman doesn't want to live in Greece anymore, " he said yesterday, before the play's dress rehearsal at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.

"It's a story that's always portrayed as epic and brave, but it is just this guy Achilles sticking a blade in another man, when you look at it. And its the same kind of thing that happens in Glasgow.

"That is not to justify those actions, but to provide people with a parallel for people that they may not be aware of, and to help understand the story."

In gang culture the name Fleeto means gang or team, and is a development from the term Fleet, which was used in times past.

Mr Cunneen said that he is sure the inmates of Polmont will benefit from seeing the play . "I am hopeful that they will get something out of it - the play does not seek to demonise anyone, " he said.

He said the play not only addresses violence, but what comes before violence: poverty of choice as well as financial poverty, desperation and social exclusion.

Chrissie McGeever, the deputy governor of HM Young Offender Institution Polmont, said: "We see this highly acclaimed production as an excellent way of grabbing the attention of these young men, focusing their minds on the consequences of their violent actions and helping them to think about changing their behaviour."

The Fleeto cast features Jordan McCurrach Neil Leiper Stewart Porter and Alison Peebles .

During the play's development Cunneen sought advice from a wide variety of agencies including the Violence Reduction Unit.

Yesterday Chief Inspector Cameron Cavin, the National AntiViolence campaign coordinator, said: "I think this kind of idea, the performance of Fleeto, is very important, because the campaign requires strong input from everyone, from all sorts of sources. " . The show is touring Scotland, beginning in Glasgow, from today to October 18, before heading to The Nave in Islington, London

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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