Knife crime takes centre stage in gang production

A GROUP of teenagers from the Capital is to take to the stage alongside professional actors in a modern tragedy about knife crime.

The youngsters from the Citadel Youth Centre in Leith are playing gang members in Fleeto alongside actors from Tumult in The Clouds theatre company.

The play by Paddy Cunneen, billed as “a hard-hitting contemporary Scottish re-invention of the Greek tragic form”, previously appeared at the Fringe and Oran Mor, and is about to go on a tour of Australia.

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First, the young Leithers will join the production for a performance on Monday afternoon in front of the Scottish Government arts and culture department, joining a cast including Andy Clark, who played Michael Brodie in River City.

They will give a second performance at the youth centre in Commercial Street that evening, in front of friends and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.

Centre manager Willy Barr said: “Part of the play requires a gang and they normally get drama students to play them, but somebody at the Scottish Government who knew this place said ‘Why don’t you ask the Citadel?’

“We weren’t sure if the boys would be into it because it was like asking them to play themselves, but they have got really into it. The theatre company came to work with them and one of the guys is from River City so, of course, the kids were lapping it up.”

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The play tells the story of a teenager who is pressured to join a gang and then fatally stabs someone.

Mr Barr said: “A lot of the boys that live in the area and come to the centre would possibly not count themselves as being in a gang already but would identify very easily with that whole peer pressure you face. We’re not glamorising the whole issue, this is a tragedy.”

One of the nine youngsters taking part, William Grady, 16, said: “It’s something that needs to be spoken about and there needs to be stuff for us to do. I’m at college three days a week but the rest of the time I’m just out on the street with my friends and we’re just always getting moved on.”

Fellow performer Scott Williamson, also 16, added: “The actors are really good, they have been giving us a lot of good advice. The play’s brilliant because it gives you a view about how young people really are sometimes.”

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Mr Cunneen, who also directs the play, said: “They’ve done really well. We’ve had good fun doing it and they were fantastically committed.”

The play will start at 7pm. Tickets are free but should be reserved by contacting 0131-554 0510 or dawn@citadel

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