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REVIEW: Leaving at Newcastle Northern Stage

A Production That Shows There Is Hope

By Paddy Campbell
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 4th March 2017

Director Amy Golding
Designer Katherina Radeva
Composition & Sound Design Roma Yagnik
Lighting Design Simon Cole

Photo: Mark Slater
Jackie Lye
Rosie Stancliffe
Kate Okello
Luke Maddison
Matt Howdon

Photo: Mark Slater
The care system is an important and complex issue for society. Writer Paddy Campbell, who has worked in the care system himself, has written a passionate piece that gives a 360o view of the current way in which we deal with children in care. By using interviews, that both he and director Amy Golding conducted with those involved, he has constructed some theatre that exposes the audience to the issues.

Photo: Mark Slater
The method used to deliver the show is verbatim theatre. In other words, each line delivered by the actors was said in actual interview.  In order to ensure the um’s and ah’s, as well as the pauses and repetitions are preserved, each actor has a pair of headphones through which the interview is relayed as they speak it. The hope is that this ‘recorded delivery’, as the programme notes inform us the technique is called, ensures the speech patterns are true to the original person. This results in the first girl’s story being delivered rapidly whilst some of the older care workers have their words spoken in a slow drawl.

Photo: Mark Slater
The overall effect is that the show is a cross between a t.v. documentary and a reconstruction, with theatrical dance elements thrown in. The audience are also supplied with headphones, although these only have sound during those more theatrical moments such as the recreation of a child’s case meeting.

Photo: Mark Slater
Back to the tale being told… As a result of the interviews, we get to hear about 10 young people who have been through the care system as well as 9 adults who are behind it. From the kids there are tales about settling in and dealing with the adults. The adults range from the care workers and their managers through to other agencies such as teachers and an MP. It is startling how big the discrepancy is between the official interpretation of what should be happening on the ground and the description of what does actually happen.

Photo: Mark Slater
The production is called Leavingand there is a focus on that moment when a child leaves the care system, how they are prepared and the barriers facing their integration into the bigger, unsupported, world. This is when, in my opinion, the audience is exposed to the more shocking revelations. Theatre is more than entertainment and, just like a great documentary on TV, you can find yourself chewing over the issues long after the show finishes. In this respect it is a moving piece.

Photo: Mark Slater
The cast of five keep changing roles and they often have a box with a name nearby in order to let you know whose story they are presenting. They work hard to convey the personality behind the voice.

Photo: Mark Slater
In conclusion I am split in two by the show. The actual content is well worth hearing; the actors are passionate and the subject matter leaves an impression upon you. Certainly Leavingis worth seeing. However, I have an issue with the headphones, especially the ones given to the audience. Whilst we, in the audience, are supposed to share in the recorded delivery verbatimexperience, I couldn’t help thinking that the experience would be improved by simply playing that sound feed through the theatre speakers. Others may disagree.

Photo: Mark Slater
The kid’s recollections of their experience in the care system should be heard. The production is certainly worth going to see as the cast show there is a human spirit, even in the darkest moments of one’s life. But be ready to leave disappointed at the treatment of our most vulnerable citizens by the system.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tour Details & Tickets:
Tickets: £15.50 / £13.50 concessions
Box office 0191 230 5151

Photo: Mark Slater
MON 13 MARCH 7pm
Tickets: £8.50 / £7.50 children
Box Office: 01225 823409

WED 15 MARCH - SAT 18 MARCH 7.30pm
Tickets: £12 / £10 concessions
Box Office: 01392 434169

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