- Anahit Behrooz
- 14 August 2019
The kids are not alright
The set for E8 is appropriately sparse. Tired pieces of furniture tacked with pragmatic, ugly school notices and bulky pieces of technology act as the backdrop for the play's only setting: an educational facility known as a Pupil's Referral Unit, designed for those who cannot attend mainstream education.
PRUs may sound like a thoughtful provision to promote accessibility, but E8 uncompromisingly reveals the various ways in which these facilities are failed by systemic injustice. Narrowing its focus to just two teachers and two pupils, the strains, frustrations, and neglect that both groups undergo is brutally yet undramatically brought to the fore. Writer Marika McKennell has roots in the spoken word scene, as well as experience in PRUs, and both shine through: the dialogue veers between quick flow speech to staccato answer and response, creating a rhythm of tension that permeates the whole play. The four actors bring a harrowing naturalism to the powerful writing, highlighting how social neglect affects the individual and refocusing the importance of the personal within institutionalised systems.
E8 shines an invaluable light on those in society who fall through the cracks and the result is simultaneously disheartening and invigorating. Sharp, upsetting, and compelling, E8 is at every level a play about the politics of care and attention, and deserves attention in return.
Pleasance Dome, until 25 Aug (not 14), 4.10pm, £10–£13 (£9–£12).