STAGE REVIEW: Leaving @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (09.03.18) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Rosie Stancliffe and Jackie Lye by Mark Slater

Immersive, novel, real and enlightening. Paddy Campbell’s Leaving was an eye-opener for those of us who aren’t familiar with the care system in the UK, or maybe haven’t given it a lot of thought.  There are three aspects to this performance I’d like to focus on: the first is the message, the second is the delivery and the third is the audience. 

This was an unusual play, in that it was not written.  It was the live voicing, by actors, of real conversations and monologues taken from interviews with children and young adults (and the associated carers/staff) who have been through, or are in, the care system currently operating in the UK.  It took us from the sudden whisking of children from playing in the street to institutionalisation without so much as a goodbye kiss from their father.  It told of the journey these children go on, from the initial shock, to a burgeoning feeling of independence, or a crippling desire to reconnect with torn-apart families. The stories were of new connections, friendships with others in a similar position, or even with the carers themselves.  There was a tale of an asylum seeking child, desperate, given hope, then failed in the worst way possible.  The message was stark, at times depressing, but overwhelmingly optimistic and full of characters; strong young adults with hope and tireless carers given prominence over the more sinister kind often portrayed in the media. 

The delivery was unique.  Each of the five actors wore a set of headphones into which was played the actual recordings of the interviews with the various protagonists, of which there were far more than five.  The actors spoke the words they heard in real time, with the sound occasionally turned up for the audience to hear.  They nailed the various accents (mainly Geordie) and despite playing genders not necessarily their own, and very different personalities, each depiction was believable and superbly portrayed.  So believable were they that my wife was convinced these were not actors at all…

This brings me to the audience.  Normally I wouldn’t mention them in a review, why would I?  But it seemed as though a good proportion of those I was amongst had first-hand experience of exactly what the show was about, and crucially, were about to experience the crux of the issue.  When the protagonists turned 18 they were turfed out, given a flat, but expected to cope in the real world.  These ‘leavers’ either flourish or flounder, it really is a vision of nature.  If any of these audience members are reading this, you’ve been through a lot, but you are strong as a result and you will be an inspiration for the next generation.  Keep it up.

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