The perceived increase in knife crimes on the streets of Scotland is steadily raising awareness of a deadly culture creeping through the nation's young population. Knives continue to be used only in around eight percent of violent crimes, but it's the use of these weapons by young gang members that has inspired writer and director Paddy Cunneen to create a tragic take on one boy's descent into gang violence, set amid Glasgow's so-called 'knife culture'.
Struck by the diminishing wealth as he travelled outside one of Scotland's city centres, Cunneen was moved by what he perceived to be an abandoned portion of society. It was this experience that inspired his central character in Fleeto. 'For that young lad in our play, there is an exhilaration in being in a gang,' he says. 'There's a sense of empowerment and a sense that all of a sudden you can have an influence on the world after years of living in conditions where you feel unnoticed, neglected and impotent, so it's no surprise in some respects that a gang holds an appeal for some people.'
Using a Homeric epic as a starting point, Cunneen is eager to dispel the glamour of gang membership. 'The Iliad is basically a story that has been celebrated throughout history and is considered a great piece of literature. Fundamentally, it's about a gang of Greeks that goes over and wages war against a gang of Trojans, yet somehow, that's seen as strangely acceptable.'
Cunneen has also borrowed the epic nature of the Iliad, in an attempt to move his new work away from the domain of soap opera. 'I thought it was important that everybody should speak in an epic way at particular times so I borrowed the Shakespearean iambic pentameter and mixed that together with what you might call Glasgow street speak,' he says. 'And because the actors are able to give an articulate, poetic account of themselves it makes you reconsider their motives and who they are as people, rather than just ticking the box that says 'violent young man please ignore'. Cunneen's hard-edged vicarious tragedy seems likely to provoke plenty of debate around a disconcerting subject.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 9-Sat 13 Sep