"The community is all gone – it's all geared to the new community, not the old community of Salford" Shirley
To get one story of one fight against demolition into a play with any credibility would be a feat in itself. But to get lots of stories from every regeneration area of central Salford, and beyond, into a play that's totally on the case is the dog's bollocks.
…Not that there are any dogs' bollocks on display. The pooches, like all the people, have left the tinned up fictional Brook Street in Langworthy. The place is a ghost town, where even the local chippy is `so quiet it makes chips to order', and old neighbours have been exiled to Eccles. Everyone's gone, except for Shirley Parkin (Francine Rees), a 63 year old spirited spinster who's determined to save her home from the bulldozers as eviction looms.
The neighbours who `fell like dominoes' in the fight against Salford Council's plan to flatten the area, pop in and out of the old street divulging their own `moving on' stories as they go.
There's wannabe socially mobile Sue (Susan Mcardle) who's bought an upside down house after queuing all night… "You were forced out of one these houses and now you've camped out to get back in it?" scoffs Shirley, amidst a barrage of Urban Splash jokes and jibes that have the audience giggling along.
There's Shirley's best friend and bad feet fiasco, Beryl (Jacqueline Pilton), who's moved into a new house that's full of faults which she lists to `proper bent' Councillor Bill (Paul Hurstfield) in scathing detail. And Joy (Anna Baatz), a single mum who's just gone with the flow… "It's mad that she's fighting to stay in this shit hole" she says of Shirley.
Meanwhile, Daz (Sean Croke), the grandson Shirley never had, wants to hold out against demolition but is looking at a flat in Eccles with a big kitchen to perfect his new penchant for baking, born out of his space cake expertise. And all the old ladies just love his space cakes – for medical reasons, of course.
Indeed, while Tinned Up could have been a one dimensional diatribe against Salford Council it never, ever, falls into that trap. Like life, it's way more complex. And conveys the human side of regeneration for better and for worse.
The characters are instantly recognisable to anyone in Salford too, which is a tribute to the strength of the acting, the directing of Trevor MacFarlane and Chris Hoyle's sharp script…
In some scenes where the former neighbours are sat around Shirley's front room it's pure Salford comedy – the ghost in The Royle Family's mainstream sitcom machine, if you like. Other scenes aim pure anger at the Council's plan to sell a local park to dodgy developers. And throughout, emotions run as wild as the scallies who hang around the condemned streets. Shirley must stay and fight for her life.
Tinned Up is based on real events and the real experiences of people battling for their homes and futures. You can hear the outspoken residents of Lower Broughton, Higher Broughton, Langworthy, Seedley and Charlestown in there, summed up by Shirley calling the Council "robbing bastards". You can feel the fight for Lightoaks Park and the hype of Urban Splash. But from there the play takes fictional wings of its own. And flies somewhere over the black rainbow of regeneration.
Oh yes, we laughed, we cried – and we wanted to drag all Salford councillors to this theatrical mirror to take a good hard look at themselves. It ain't a pretty sight.
Review by Stephen Kingston
Tinned Up is at The Lowry Studio until 2nd July and is totally sold out. Hopefully this top play will be staged again very soon within the community.
Tinned Up is produced by Shed Productions in development with The Lowry.
See Salford Star interview with writer Chris Hoyle – click here.
Read some real residents stories – click here and here