Love on the Dole

Love on the Dole is described as ‘a community play for Salford’.  Drawing actors from the local community (who may not have acted before), the play reflects the geographic locations of the story, and the past and present socio-political climate.  ‘The social actor is never just the character they play, but also a member of of the current community.’  Adapted by Sarah Weston (who co-directs with Steph Green), it’s based on the novel by Walter Greenwood set in Salford around 1930, a time of mass unemployment.

We start in a large room on the ground floor of Islington Mill.  The audience, part seated, part standing, are free to move around and follow the action which unfolds all around us.  On a small stage a group of women talk about ‘Hanky Park’, where they all live, and their daily lives unfold.  Behind us, a machine shop is recreated, and Harry Hardcastle starts his apprenticeship.  To the side, a bar and money lending, opposite a pawn shop.  Then snaking through the audience, the dole queue, and the labour exchange.  The effect is powerful and we are part of the action, complicit in all that goes on.  And there’s just the right number of people to fill the space but without restricting the movement of any of the actors.

Main space in the Interval

Main space in the Interval

From there we march to Salford Town Hall.  It’s very real and we are at the centre of the march.  Banners, slogans, megaphones, they even closed Chapel Street for us.  Perhaps this is the moment that you realise that the story is as relevant today as it was in the thirties, and we still march for the same outcomes, and to fight the same inequalities.  Local residents offer support; some stand on balconies of newly built flats.  At the Town Hall we witness the Battle of Bexley Square, where a man is killed.  We work our way towards St Phillip’s Church, with the women frantically asking where their men are.

The final scene is about birth, marriage and death, played in the impressive interior of St Phillip’s Church.  It’s a fitting and moving ending.

This is a very ambitious play that uses the local community and environment perfectly.  It succeeds in everything it sets out to do, and it’s truly immersive.  Relevant to today, close to the community and very much about Salford then and now, this play marks an incredible achievement for everyone involved.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

One Response to “Love on the Dole”

  1. Jane McNulty says:

    Sounds an amazing piece of theatre. Brilliant, and well done to everyone involved. Hoping we’ll get chance to see this again.

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