By Beatrix Campbell and Judith Jones,
Theatre Royal York, 13 March (Now playing at the Arcola Theatre, Hackney until 21 April)
STAR RATING: 4/5
“Mandy’s council flat has no boundaries; the door’s been off its hinges for weeks and Mandy has all kinds of visitors. She’ll get her life together soon, but not yet, not tonight. It’s her birthday and she’s going to party like there’s no tomorrow. During the night phones go unanswered. The next morning her eight-yearold daughter is gone, and the accusations begin…”
So reads the programme of Blame, the second play from Beatrix Campbell and Judith Jones. There are warning notices about the language and its unsuitability for under-14s. And quite right too, because for the first 10 minutes it’s no-holds-barred bad language; and difficult to follow a sentence as the characters grapple with the English language after taking various drugs.
Eventually we settle down to coherent dialogue, and the story behind the non-existent front door (which we hear is waiting to come from Poland…“Cos that’s where the council now gets front doors from!”).
There are gems of humour in this play, recognised by those of us who work in “the system”, and feelings of discomfort when you hear phrases that could be lifted from your service: “They give you six appointments and if you miss the first you are classed as uncooperative” bemoans one character about social services.
The actors are excellent and bring the compelling story, set in Hackney, to life. It’s about an underclass, powerless but happy in its multiculturalism and yet feared and blamed for our ills. But do sit it out. One well dressed couple didn’t get past the first 10 minutes… and they missed so much.
Lynne Fordyce is a specialist health visitor, Belmont House child and family resource unit, Leeds