World Premiere


Manchester's original street gangs

  • By Rona Munro
  • 5 February 2015 - 7 March 2015
  • The Theatre
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It's 1885 and the streets of Manchester are crackling with energy, youth and violence. As workers pour into Ancoats to power the Industrial Revolution, 50.000 people are crammed into one square mile. The mills rumble thunderously day and night. The air is thick with smoke. Life is lived large and lived on the street. This is the world's very first industrial suburb and the young mill workers who are the living cogs in its machines form the very first urban gangs, fighting over their territory with belts, fists and knives.

Invisible in history their lives, deaths, loves, lusts and defiant energy tell stories that will repeat and repeat over the decades that follow.
Inspired by the Manchester riots of 2011 and the stories of all the Manchester gangs between the nineteenth century and today Rona Munro's new play smashes the nineteenth century against a twenty first century sensibility to bring the young Scuttlers back to vivid, potent life.

Wils Wilson is an award winning director and site-specific theatre maker. Her recent work includes Praxis Makes Perfect (National Theatre Wales); Gastronauts (Royal Court); ANON, (WNO); The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (National Theatre of Scotland) which has been touring nationally and internationally since 2010.

Rona Munro has written extensively for stage, radio, film and television including the trilogy THE JAMES PLAYS for the National Theatre of Scotland, The National Theatre and the Edinburgh International Festival.

“I love the Royal Exchange because the relationship between the audience and the performers is so immediate. There’s a shared sense of making the theatre happen together - a kind of deal between the audience and the performers." Wils Wilson, Director

The creative development of SCUTTLERS has been generously supported by the Peter Henriques Memorial Fund.

COMMUNITY ENSEMBLE: Pawel Adamkiewicz, Ramial Aqueel, Abigayle Bartley, Casey Birks, Tabitha Bowman, Hayden Burns, Joe Callaghan, Michael Coleman, Duncan Crompton, Tyler Dobbs, John Dudley, Tom Durrant, Conor Glean, Jonah Gourlay, Lois Griffiths-Balaam, Josh Hawson, Duncan Hibbert, Steven Ireland, Cassandra John-Baptiste, Tim Law, Calum Lill, Tom Lyons, Charlie Maguire, Joseph Mihranian, Ceri Moss, Olivia Peers, Leyla Percival, Sonny Poontip, Adriano Primerano, Dave Ramsden, Lyndsay Rowan and Ciara Warburton. Check out the blogs by Ensemble members Conor Glean and Tom Durrant here.



From the slums of industrial Manchester came a strange and violent cult that would terrorise the streets for three decades. Gangs of youths, clad in bizarre fashions, launched a series of turf wars, fighting pitched battles that left scores maimed and even killed. 

In the acclaimed THE GANGS OF MANCHESTER, a leading historian reveals the extraordinary true story of the Scuttlers.

'Andrew Davies evokes the energy and excitement of gang life, their pride, their loyalty to each other, their love of fighting and their brutal excesses.' History Today

Book available to buy from the Information Point. £7.99 


  • Event Information
  • VENUE: The Theatre

    PERFORMANCE DATES: Thursday 5 February - Saturday 7 March 2015

    PERFORMANCE TIMES: Monday – Friday evenings: 7.30pm / Tuesday & Wednesday matinees: 2.30pm / Saturdays: 3.30pm and 8.00pm / Extra Matinee Tuesday 17 February at 2.30pm

    TICKET PRICES: Standard tickets from £15.00 / Half Price Previews from £7.50 / Banquette tickets: £10

    BOOK TICKETS: Box Office: 0161 833 9833 / online


    RUNNING TIME: Approx 2 hours and 20 minutes, which includes one interval of 20 minutes.

  • Creative Team
  • DIRECTOR Wils Wilson
    DESIGNER Fly Davis
    LIGHTING Natasha Chivers
    SOUND Peter Rice
    MUSIC Denis Jones
    MOVEMENT DIRECTOR Eddie Kay for Frantic Assembly
    PHOTO BY Kevin Cummins

  • Related Events
  • AFTER SHOW DISCUSSION: Thursday 26 February, after 7.30pm performance. More information

    BACK STAGE TOUR: Wednesday 11 February, 11.00am. Tickets £5 (including refreshments). Book on 0161 833 9833. More information

    BETWEEN THE LINES: Wednesday 18 February, 11am - 1pm. Play-reading and discussion group. For everyone over 18. Come along and read, discuss or just listen. 11am - 1pm. Tickets £6. Book on 0161 833 9833. More information

    BEHIND THE SCENES: Wednesday 25 February: 10.30am - 12 noon. Pre-show introduction to the play and production. For all ages. Tickets £6/£4 concessions. Book on 0161 833 9833. More information

    GANGLAND MANCHESTER: Panel discussion with Dave Haslam. Saturday 28 February. Tickets £6. More information

    SCUTTLERS WALKING TOURS: Due to sell-out demand, extra dates added - Saturdays 28 February & 7 March, 11.30am. More information

    FROM THE STREETS: Exploring Manchester's Urban Art Scene. Free to view in the Great Hall until 7 March. More information

    THE GANGS OF MANCHESTER BY ANDREW DAVIES: Book available to buy from the Information Point. £7.99. 

  • Accessible Performances
  • AUDIO DESCRIBED PERFORMANCE: Saturday 28 February 3.30pm 

    BSL INTERPRETED PERFORMANCE: Tuesday 3 March 7.30pm

    CAPTIONED PERFORMANCE: Tuesday 24 February at 7.30pm

    Click here for more information about our accessible performances

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  • 4 black stars on white background ‘…dark, grimy, ripe with DANGEROUS excitement – THRILLING…INTOXICATING' The Times

    ‘The TERRIFIC soundscape is full of noise and fury …Eddie Kay’s choreographed movement is IMPRESSIVE' The Guardian

    ‘ATMOSPHERIC and TANGIBLE… Denis Jones and Peter Rices’ INGENIOUS, IMMERSIVE soundscape'

    4 black stars on white background ‘The sense of ENERGY is absolutely OVERWHELMING…WONDERFUL script… FANTASTIC soundscapes…it really is SOMETHING SPECIAL.’  
    The Good Review

    4 black stars on white background ‘Wils Wilson’s IMPRESSIVE production…TERRIFIC crowd work…INTENSELY drawn individual performances, ENDING WITH A STROKE OF THEATRICAL GENIUS.’ The Stage

    4 black stars on white background ‘It’s to the credit of the AWARD-WINNING playwright and an IMPRESSIVE creative team that the underbelly of Victorian Manchester is VIVIDLY brought to life.' Manchester Evening News

    ‘A VISUAL and SONIC TREAT - looks FANTASTIC…sounds WONDERFUL…the choreographed fight scenes have an INTOXICATING ENERGY’

    4 black stars on white background'This is a young, vibrant production... Dan Parr, so impressive in the RET's production of Britannia Waves The Rules, returns to once again impress... With it's "in your face" physicality and a lively, pacy script this is a very watchable play and Munro makes sure you care about a group of characters struggling to survive. The ending is clever too. Messenger Newspapers

    4 black stars on white background 'The cast skillfully convey the futility of life in industrial Manchester... The historical accuracies are breathtaking... I sense that only the Royal Exchange could do justice to a play of this nature.' Northern Soul

    'atmospheric, original, and exciting. Credit must also go to the actors for making this seem so authentic. There was a real energy among them, making this era-spanning production stand out as something quite special.' The Manchester Review

    'edge of the seat action with the help of a formidable team... The Exhange is the perfect setting for this vibrant and passionate piece... The cast are hugely impressive, passionate and fierce... Exciting, thought provoking and engaging.' Manchester's Finest

    UNCHARTED TERRITORY by Kevin Bourke for Big Issue In The North
    'As tens of thousands of workers poured into Ancoats in Manchester to power the Industrial Revolution at the end of the nineteenth century, the world’s very first industrial suburb was created. With 50,000 people crammed into one square mile, those jam-packed streets crackled with energy, youth and violence. As the mills rumbled thunderously day and night,...' [Read More]

  • BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Interview with writer Rona Munro

    BBC Radio 4 Front Row Interview with writer Rona Munro

    To access both interviews - open links and scroll down to 'chapter' heading

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