All credit to the Headgate Theatre for always seeking new ways to stage work and bring new and old audiences to the theatre.

Headgate Studio Sessions are a series of work staged upstairs in the Studio, presenting new or rarely staged work on occasional Sundays. Whilst the season is yet to be confirmed, it got off to a great start with Treatment, directed by Andrew Hodgson, performed for the first time since his 1985 Arts Centre production. What is remarkable is the stripped-back staging of black tabs and minimal set, simple lighting, and the audience on three sides. It is how much a rehearsal space looks and feels like a theatre.

Jonathan Moore’s play looks at early 80s football hooliganism and violence, tribalism, and anger—a time I remember well. It is a short, sharp shock of a play, and the themes are still horribly relevant. (I kept thinking of the Kinfe Angel statue that visited Colchester last October.)

Brothers Liam and Rory head the local skinhead gang, kings of the Chelsea fans, or so they see themselves, beating up and knifing rival supporters. However, the violence is starting to sicken Liam, and he begins to seek a way out, leaving his family behind.

The cast is excellent. George Deadman is a powerful Liam, yet letting his sensitivity seep through, we see him trying to emerge from the foetal position of anger and safety into a frightening but potentially rewarding new world. He is aided by this with the help of a priest, Glenn Granger, a benevolent authority who offers friendship and help, and his girlfriend, Julia, played with strong conviction by Emma Theedom. All of them must endure the barrage of abuse and violence from Rory, Liam’s older brother, and a tight, convincing portrayal of rage from Rowan Donaldson.

The play is beautifully spoken, too; the depths of tones are perfectly judged, and the play is not pitched at a shouting level all the way through. Despite the tension (perfectly built in such an intimate space), the sensitivity and tenderness of the piece come through, although the ending feels unavoidable.

Congratulations to everyone involved; the bar has been set high!