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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Clarkle’

This is one of the most upsetting and unsettling plays I have ever seen. Like Ken Loach’s recent film I, Daniel Blake, it puts up a mirror to our current badly broken and inhumane welfare system. It’s more heart-breaking because you’re there, live, witnessing the helplessness and hopelessness. It’s a devastating experience, but it has to be seen.

They have literally turned the Dorfman Theatre into the communal area of a homeless hostel and we’re sitting in it. There’s an extraordinary roof with skylights scraped by the branches of trees. We can see into a couple of the rooms our characters inhabit. Sometimes they sit amongst us and at the end we are compelled to help one. It’s an extraordinary immersive experience, in full neon lighting so even the audience can’t hide their feelings.

Two homeless families are at the centre of the story. Newly arrived young couple Dean and Emma, with Dean’s two children Jason and Paige. Emma is heavily pregnant. They occupy one cramped room. In the room next door are Colin and his mum Barbara. He’s her carer. They’ve been there twelve months. There’s also a Somalian refugee and a Syria refugee who arrives and leaves during the play, but it’s the two British families experiences at the heart of the piece. Though we hear some of their back stories, it’s really about the system and how it treats them and the stress of being cooped up with no end in sight. Every character moved me at some point, but it was four people sharing one can of soup and some bread from a food bank, then the youngest child saying that she was still hungry, that moved me most. I’d eaten more before I left for the theatre.

Nick Holder’s Colin and Anna Calder-Marshall’s Barbara both had me in tears. Luke Clarke and Janet Etuk played Dean and Emma with great sensitivity and dignity, and Bobby Stallwood and Emily Beacock as Jason and Paige were extraordinary. Natasha Jenkins’ uber realistic design is stunning. This is the first work by writer director Alexander Zeldin I’ve seen and it’s hugely impressive.

The standing ovation seemed as much a statement of support for the homeless as it did admiration for one of the most authentic and moving pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. I now feel motivated to campaign and I start by urging you to go and see it.

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