Zero Down (4 stars)

Complex female characters in a tense drama about care home workers

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Zero Down

Student Erin has recently joined Layla and Benni as a zero hours worker in a care home. Intermittently, a voiceover calls 'a worker to room x' and one of the women clocks in before leaving to help the residents. In between, they wait, unpaid and folding bedding to pass the time.

At first the script seems clunky, with the three women appearing as caricatures: nasty Benni opens the play with expletives and bigotry, Layla is a shade too simple for comfort and Erin a naive student with war correspondent ambitions. It is in fact a deftly written and incredibly well-paced script. In a style akin to genuine conversation, we learn more about the women as their shift progresses in one unbroken scene, their hopes for the future and glimmers of their past.

The actors bring depth and subtlety to their roles, emerging as complex women, flawed and human. As events in the care home spiral out of control and emotions flare, the tension in the room is palpable. The script mentions that stories of poor conditions in care homes are old news and people don't take notice. Zero Down looks behind the soundbites of 'cruel staff' to examine a corrupt system pushing people to their limits in a play that forces you to take notice.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 29 Aug (not 18), 1pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50).

Zero Down

  • 4 stars

When a student joins the zero hours team at a run-down care home, underlying tensions between the overworked nurses and their patients start to surface.

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