Lifestyle review: An emotional journey

City of One – a musical by Mike Akers
The Myrtle Theatre Company
The Tobacco Factory, Bristol
5-15 September 2007

Star rating: 5/5

The Myrtle Theatre Company has developed a national reputation for ground-breaking theatre and their production of City of One was no exception, writes Elspeth Loades.

Over the last year, the company has been working with children in care, foster carers, social workers and policy makers, and has developed a profound knowledge of the care system.

City of One ran for 10 nights in Bristol and sold out on several occasions. It had the audience reaching for tissues during the performance, and buzzing about it for days afterwards.

The theme was the care system, and the play followed a few weeks in the life of 14-year-old Liam.

It handled sensitively and with humour the familiar topics of sudden placement breakdown the excitement and anticipation of a meeting with an alcoholic father and the subsequent despair at its failure an overworked social worker a mismatched placement and exclusion from school.

The indomitable commitment of the newly approved foster carers came through strongly, as did – unexpectedly – the irrepressible glimmer of optimism the reluctant teenage foster sister brought to Liam’s bleak life.

A major strength of the production was in its heartbreaking accuracy in demonstrating the problems faced every day by those involved with children in the care system. Nobody was vilified all of the players were shown doing their best in difficult circumstances.

A group of children and young people – many of them themselves in care – played the part of Liam’s internal life, the City of One, in shadowy dance and mime. Other young people undertook technical roles, and some performed with the musicians.

Rehearsals occupied four full weeks of the summer holidays. “The last few weeks have been an enormous challenge,” admits producer Heather Williams. “But that’s what this is all about.”

If this production comes your way, make sure the young people you work with get involved. Go along to watch it – and take tissues and a bundle of foster carer recruitment packs with you.

Elspeth Loades is a planning and development manager in the South West

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