Beyond Caring

Plays such as Beyond Caring, brought to HOME Manchester from 13 – 16 July by Alexander Zeldin and Company, tread a very fine line between great theatre and complete pointlessness.  The pace on the bleak, concrete set is slowed down, and much of what we take for granted in our lives stripped away.  It’s meant to be uneventful, it’s meant to slow down time.  It’s meant to reflect the experience of the work environment.  And I think that’s where the play is made.  It takes the opportunity to use its blank canvas to paint tiny, and very clever detail that would otherwise go unnoticed.  I found it gripping.

Three women, Becky, Grace and Susan, start as cleaners in a meat factory, each facing their own personal challenges and each desperate for whatever work they can get.  Their boss Ian knows this, but he tries to stay within the confines of what he thinks a line manager should be.  Alongside them is sensitive Phil, who reads Dick Francis and brings in cake for his daughter’s birthday.  It’s the relationships between them, and the consequences of tiny actions, that make this play work.  Becky in particular is the catalyst to many of the significant actions; she alone knows how to play the game, but doesn’t.  The others are pretty well just trying to find a way to cope.

I worked in food factories in the nineties; it was never this bad.  The effect of zero hours contracts on peoples’ lives is significant and important.  This is a play that puts the issues under the spotlight in a sensitive and thoughtful, although at times very bleak, way.  By creating unique characters, it’s a compelling play about a difficult subject.

The play was ‘written and devised with the company’ and this shows through in the strong characterisations.  Despite the oppressive work environment and the exhaustion, individual characteristics shine through.  There is no uniform solution, no empty shell.  Each person is doing the job for their own reasons, each is trying to find a way through, and each develops the fragments of the relationships that they think will make their lives more bearable.  You leave the theatre wondering how they will all cope the next day.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood – Becky, played by Victoria Moseley

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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