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REVIEW: Ballistic; Burnley Youth Theatre

Mark Conway stars as the troubled young man who turns to violence. (s)
Mark Conway stars as the troubled young man who turns to violence. (s)
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Mini Mall Theatre Company fired audiences to the dark depths of human rage with its chilling tale of violence.

Ballistic took us on a journey through the ups and downs of a young man from the age of 12 to his university years.

It revealed the dagger-sharp woes which chipped away at his self-esteem - divorce, romantic rejection, bullying and loss of friendship - before he cracked and turned to murder.

It also detailed the factors leading to his sense of entitlement: validation from online trolls; worship from Youtube followers; and unhealthy ideas of masculinity.

Actor Mark Conway showed off remarkable skills in this one-man production.

He dipped in and out of many characters with ease, nailing their accents and mannerisms and bringing lively personality to each.

As the nameless “protagonist”, Mark whirled audiences through an emotional storm.

Thanks to his fantastic range and stage presence, I felt an uncomfortable mix of empathy, fondness and disgust towards the character.

Director Anna Marsland and the production team should also be applauded for whipping up this emotional whirlwind and powerfully taking it from page to stage.

They created an energetic show which tapped into the playfulness and youth of the protagonist and teased out every drop of humour in the early scenes.

This helped to make the character endearing.

But it also made the final scenes all the more frightening when the play’s energy bled into violence.

Complementing this was the impressive electronic set designed by Frances Roughton.

Technology was cleverly used to mirror the glitches in the protagonist’s life: the Tetras games which offered escape during his childhood; the sound system of parties where he struggled to function; the violent video games which gave him power and brotherhood; the social media sites which made him a feel like a “God”.

Writer Alex Packer brilliantly wove together the teenage years which foreran murder.

The language was fun and playful then misogynistic and aggressive but always reflected the real world.

Rather than tying the tale up with neat answers, his dynamic and creative style allowed us to unpick it and ask: what turns an innocent boy into a murderous man?