Who Cares is a stunning, fast paced piece of verbatim theatre about the plight of three young carers living in Salford. It’s profoundly compelling, well-acted and delivers a blistering attack on the Coalition and Conservative government’s austerity policies.
The show can be read as a scathing exposé of the misery which has been caused by a decade of government-imposed austerity
Connor (Luke Grant) takes care of his mother, who's depression and bi-polar leave her struggling to take care of herself; Jade (Jessica Temple) has to look after her disabled dad and brother; Nicole's (Lizzie Mounter) mother suffered a stroke which cost her her memory and her mobility. High energy monologues from each character are woven together to tell these stories, with the focus constantly shifting between the three members of the ensemble. We see the three kids fighting not to lose their parents to one condition or another while at the same time balancing the banal tribulations of teenage life - gossip, bullying, double-Geography...
Lung Theatre are rapidly earning a name for themselves as the architects of hard-hitting, well-researched verbatim theatre which tackles live social issues. Last year, their production of Trojan Horse caused a stir. Who Cares itself is based on extensive interviews with young carers, the people they care for, charities and social workers in Salford - every line of script is taken from these testimonies. Of course, this only makes the whole piece more impactful and tragic.
The show can be read as a scathing exposé of the misery which has been caused by a decade of government-imposed austerity: social services left decimated, support worker numbers cut, healthcare services strained to breaking point and the benefits on which many disabled people depend taken away. The result? Children left to pick up the slack. The normal rhythm of the show is punctuated by interviews with charity or social workers, who voice their grief, anger and frustration. The actors deftly switch from playing children to playing grown-ups who are as overwhelmed as they are.
The impression we’re left with is of a social care sector so thinly stretched that it cannot provide the basic empathy and support which they and their families need. They live for years as the sole carers for their parents before anyone notices. One of them comments “I’m on my 13th social worker but no one’s asked me what’s wrong.”
Like all the best activist theatre, this doesn’t just pose a question - it gives the audience a way to take action too. As the show ends, they promote a petition calling for improvements in the support which young carers receive, which can also be signed here: https://whocarestour.org.uk/who-cares-campaign.