Our Young Reviewer's review 'The Shy Manifesto'

The 2019 Harrogate Theatre Young Reviewers Scheme is now over half way through.

Every year we aim to inspire and develop the review writing skills of students from local high schools via our Young Reviewers Scheme. The reviewers are nominated by their teachers and are invited to review four shows from the upcoming theatre season.  

The group receive feedback from myself as Head of Communications and for each show, a ‘best review’ is chosen.

Last week I shared a review of Women-Wise, and for this week here’s the top review from ‘The Shy Manifesto’:

Michael Ross’ newest project certainly doesn’t shy away from the challenging topics of today 

If you are ever able to encounter an individual that can grip the attention of a room for over an hour, then you need to take that individual and cast him in a one man show that has the potential to change your outlook on life. Thankfully, writer Michael Ross and director Cat Robey found their prodigy in the form of recent RADA graduate Theo Ancient, who takes on the role of Callum in the 2019 UK tour of ‘The Shy Manifesto’. Ancient delivers Ross’ lines with a fierce potency that never seems to ebb or tire, and this further accentuates Ross’ apparent attempt to relate to a modern audience. This attempt succeeds. 

The Shy Manifesto’s offer of an insight into the workings of a self-effacing teenage boy, a narrative not much observed on the stage. Alongside a bold commentary on male sexual assault these themes hint at a ground-breaking piece of theatre. In a ‘MeToo’ era, Ross manages to create an angle that presents the viewpoint of the guilty party in a situation that shifts the audience’s moral compass, begging the question “is sympathy felt towards our beloved Callum?” Watching this seemingly inconspicuous teen struggle with the consequences of his actions being smeared all over Twitter resonates with my social media generation. Ross expertly captures the pressures and standards implemented by our teenage selves and more than once I feel myself welling up at Ancient’s distressing monologue.

The Shy Manifesto, however, is not without flaws. The archaic cliché representation of the ‘token’ gay boy in Callum’s class leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and I feel almost let down by this flaw. It seems as if Ross is writing for a forward-thinking audience; a forward-thinking audience from 1983.

 Overall the Shy Manifesto seems to be here to stay, and as one famous socialist revolutionary (almost) said: ‘a spectre is haunting England- the spectre of shyness.’

Sophie Robinson, St Aiden’s

A review of ‘The Shy Manifesto’ by Michael Ross

Performed as part of a UK tour at Harrogate Theatre on Monday 6th March at 19:45