This is a visceral and vitally important piece in which playwright Eliza Gearty and director Alex Kampfner have wrought an exquisite little nugget of social political theatre: sublime in delivery and haunting in subject material.
A visceral and vitally important piece of theatre
Fast Food worker Shaun is a typical eighteen year old. He likes music, mates and getting stoned. Usually all at the same time. He is a devoted older brother, has a colourful best mate and a sparky potential new girlfriend.
But Shaun is no carefree teenager. As in all too many hidden stories across the country, he is also the sole carer to his eight year old sister, desperate to keep it from the authorities lest they separate them, and scraping whatever he can together to keep her safe, warm and fed.
Little sister Sophie knows more of the sadnesses and quirks of the world than she should. She knows to keep her mouth shut at school and not to betray the fruity language or drug dealing which characterise the chaotic life of her family home.
It is a horribly reminiscent story. I remember something similar from Grange Hill decades ago. And yet, it bears retelling because it is still happening. Decades and decades on from the great tomes of suggested social reform, it is still happening. And at a time when the cost of living is never far from anyone’s thoughts, not only is there little sign that inequity of circumstance will ever abate, but every suggestion that it will only continue to get worse.
Shaun is proud and dignified: prepared to work for the paltry pay which never quite covers expenses. A child himself, he too knows more of the sadnesses and quirks of the world than he should. He begs for more work: but is denied with a smile and an airy wave of the hand. He begs for shifts which will enable him to provide childcare: but is denied with a wolfish grin and a promise of jam tomorrow.
It is a familiar treadmill to too many people: surviving rather than thriving. And the ensemble cast are superb in suggesting the defeated anger, the hope against the odds, the way in which the tiniest glimmers of lightness shine in the gloom of just existing.
But whilst this is a rollicking good story in its own right, and has all the hallmarks of a successful plotline, About Money is so much more than that. It shines a light on a shabby, dog-eared piece of our country's financial jigsaw and as such, deserves to be seen by the largest of audiences.