MIXED Up North was never going to be the cheeriest play.

Robin Soans’ piece of verbatim theatre focuses on a youth theatre group in a Burnley still recovering from the riots, or “disturbances” as the PR men would like residents to refer to them, of 2001.

And yet amidst the bleak and sometimes shocking revelations, there were plenty of laughs from the audience.

There were plenty of uncomfortable moments, too. The play, directed by Max Stafford-Clark, is based on real-life conversations, and doesn’t back away from revealing ugly truths. In fact, it revels in them.

A young-looking cast were joined by well-loved actress Celia Imrie, but refused to be overshadowed by their famous co-star.

Lisa Kerr’s gobby chav Kylie was the sort of girl you’d cross the street to avoid, while Rose Leslie’s naïve but optimistic Wendy was one of the few characters it was easy to feel sympathy for.

It was a professional theatre debut for Kathryn O’Reilly, but there was no sign of nerves in her strident performance of Bella, the director of the theatre group’s play.

Personally I prefer theatre to stick to the “show, don’t tell” rule, which was cast aside entirely in this piece by bringing the audience into the action, even giving them slices of cake as they were talked at.

And I would have liked some of the issues to be explored more fully — it seemed that in trying to cover everything, many concerns were raised and then simply passed over.

But this is a brave piece which doesn’t back away from any dark corners, and few of the characters emerge unscathed.

The Octagon can be proud to be holding the world premiere of plays like this.

* The show runs until September 26. To book ring 01204 520661 or visit the website below.