REVIEW: Theatre Group's 'Ruthlessness'

We checked out a show featuring gangsters, gay boxers and plenty of blackmail.

After a cracking performance of Vindice, Theatre Group are back with their latest offering of pure brilliance. Ruthlessness is set just after Blair’s 1997 victory where it sees a young mob boss takes control after his father’s death. The multiple plot lines are centred around this cold and calculated character with plenty of humour thrown in throughout the whole perfomance.

The show, directed by Claire Gilbert and Sam Jenkins-Shaw, kicks off with Carlyle (Sam Dobson) taking advantage of his newly-accquired power and hopeless ambitions of “going clean” by planning to open a casino to disguise the mob’s illegal incomes. Two small time gangsters Lenny (Alex Curtis) and Guy (Tom Searle) are forced to pay back £10k they borrowed from Carlyle’s late father which they lost on a not-so-rigged horse race. The show focuses on the pair’s struggles to gain the funds whilst introducing twists and turns with the help of the other characters.

Small-time gangsters Guy and Lenny. Credit: Joe Hart

Arrogant mob boss Carlyle blackmails the local politician Deborah (Olivia Whyte) into approving plans for a new super-casino, whilst sweetening the deal by offering her inside information into a fixed boxing fight. What the desperado doesn’t know is that Lenny and Guy have arranged their own fight fix with the help of Patty (Liberty Buckland) and Mindy (Meg Gibson), only for the latter two to then play a part in what is perhaps the biggest twist of the show.

‘Metal’ Mickey, the bent boxer (in more ways than one) is played well by Raees Mahmood, particularly during the awkward scene when gangster Guy is forced to be photographed sexually engaging with Mickey; a blackmail attempt at fixing the fight for Lenny and Guy’s gain.

Summers (Nick Barclay), Carlyle’s assistant, plays the henchman role extremely well, especially when the rigged fight doesn’t go in his boss’ favour. The classic scene of the right-hand man giving the enemy a beating ensues, a moment where both characters really show their true colours.

There were however, a couple of predictable scenarios. Naming trophy wife and dumb blonde ‘Marylin Hepburn’ (played by Alex Bowen) left obvious scope for referral to Audrey and Miss Monroe, something head gangster Carlyle was quick to jump upon throughout the play.

Mob boss Carlyle with Metal Mickey and Marylin Hepburn. Credit: Joe Hart

‘Ruthlessness’ was short enough to keep the audience gripped and entertained, and perfectly timed to fit in several witty plot lines along the way. The multiple leads and quirky gangster theme made the show very Pulp Fiction-esque and was even reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s RockNRolla. Snippets of Brit pop classics such as Blur and Pulp playing between scene changes provided a clever note of the show’s time setting.

Written by Alexis Forss and Alex Curtis, ‘Ruthlessness’ defies the boundaries of political correctness; taking advantage of its setting before the New Labour government crack-down on acceptable speech. Its light-hearted slurs at the various Jewish characters have an added bite of humour.

Far from leaving a bad taste in the mouth, the audience instead left with a grin across their faces. As always, Theatre Group did not disappoint.

Theatre Group will be taking Ruthlessness to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival between 12th and 27th August.