Magical reflection on children in care
This article is from 2008.
The idea of a play about children in care might not immediately strike you as an entertaining Festival night out, but overcome your prejudices. Vicky Featherstoneʼs production of David Harrowerʼs script for the National Theatre of Scotland touches upon the issues that underlie its subject matter with nuanced tenderness, short-circuiting any accusations of worthiness before they can happen.
A large cast of youthful actors plays through a series of scenarios involving practice flats, a form of temporary accommodation afforded to children in the latter stages of care just before they pass into the adult world. Against a succession of these places, which are coldly numbered and sparsely furnished by government issue, we meet various kids, ranging from a young man so institutionalised heʼs unsure how to use a plug, to a couple of sexually abused girls and their troubled teenage abuser and a girl who has been placed in care without the child she gave birth to at 13. There are more stories, each interlocking in a narrative smoothly facilitated by Georgia McGuinessʼ ingenious, versatile, occasionally magical set.
If Harrowerʼs text suffers from a touch of the River Cities in its early expositional stages, it warms to its task ingeniously, with a marvellous comic tirade of abuse hurled through a locked door by two brothers being one of many highlights. Meanwhile, the visual language of Featherstoneʼs production is thrillingly articulate, with such objects as toasters and toy balloons accumulating about them a lush and bittersweet emotional resonance. And accumulation is the trick to a final, very memorable image, which humanises the problems faced by these youngsters with startling grandeur.
Meanwhile, Featherstone extracts some terrific performances from her youthful cast, who make a series of transitions between the real world and a kind of magic realist fantasy of what home should mean to them with admirable deftness. This is certainly an EIF highlight, deservedly packing out the vast auditorium of the Playhouse.
Playhouse, 473 2000, 7.30pm, until 25 Aug, £10 - £25