David, our Coordinator for Creative Learning spends an evening in Manchester at the Royal Exchange Theatre.
Black Roses – The Killing of Sophie Lancaster
The Royal Exchange Studio in Manchester; two actors; poetry from Simon Armitage, words from Sophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster; a simple cleverly designed set: a heart breaking true story from Rossendale.
Sophie Lancaster was twenty years old. Together with her boyfriend Robert Maltby they encountered a group of youths in Stubby Lee Park in Bacup. Both were attacked. Sophie was killed.
Simon Armitage’s poetry gives a voice to Sophie. It could easily have been played with intense emotion by Rachel Austin but it is not. Rachel allows the emotion to come from the words themselves and they are immensely powerful.
Between the poems, are layered the words of Sophie’s mum as she recounts her story of Sophie, her goth daughter, and that fateful night. She is played brilliantly by Julie Hesmondhalgh as she struggles to understand.
This is theatre at its most powerful; the arts at work slapping you in the face to make you take notice: a crime of hate.
“ We are kindly creatures, peaceful souls,
But something of our life aggravates theirs,
Something in their lives despises ours.
The difference between us is what they can’t stand.”
…and the black roses? They are the bruises on Sophie’s body, ‘the bitter bruises of self-defence’.
“Pull the curtains around.
Call the angels down.
Now let me go.
Now carry me home.
Now make this known.”
We left the theatre in silence, not a word spoken, even on the bus home to Burnley.