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‘Filled with observant compassion’ … Janet Etuk as Emma and Nick Holder as Colin in Love [Image: Sarah Lee for The Guardian].


It is very good that plays like Love are appearing, because they use the art form to encourage people to confront the realities of living in modern Britain and voting for a strongly right-wing Conservative government.

This Writer has made the point several times before, and I have been encouraged by friends locally to try my own hand at it – although whether any such piece would ever get to the stage is debatable; I simply don’t have the contacts.

So I welcome the arrival of shows like Love.

My one problem with it is that it will only appear in London and Birmingham.

The huge impact of I, Daniel Blake is due, not just to the fact that the film won a major award in Cannes, but to its availability – people across the UK (although admittedly not yet in Mid Wales) have been able to see it.

They should also have the opportunity to see this new drama about homelessness. When can we expect the national tour? Can we at least have a video link of a performance to other theatres?

Here are a few reasons we should be able to see this play:

It is filled with observant compassion but at first I found myself craving more political anger. Only later did I grasp that Zeldin leaves it to us to supply the appropriate rage.

Meals are cooked. People compete for access to the one toilet. In the most touching scene, Colin washes his mother’s hair at the sink in Fairy liquid.

While Zeldin shows rather than tells, he makes the point that these people have done nothing wrong: they are simply victims of a dearth of social housing and arbitrary caps to the benefit system.

They are also made to suffer needlessly. Colin waits five hours for a five-minute appointment, only to be told there is nowhere for his mum and him to go. Dean has had his benefits cut for just missing a jobcentre date, on the day he and his family were evicted.

Zeldin is not alone in drawing attention to the cracks in the welfare system. Cardboard Citizens have for 25 years made theatre with and for homeless people. Ken Loach in Cathy Come Home and I, Daniel Blake ignited our anger at injustice. Anders Lustgarten in The Seven Acts of Mercy makes high drama out of forced deprivation. But Zeldin’s particular achievement is to show people’s capacity for endurance. Tempers may flare and tensions rise, but his play is both about the dignity and the love that survive even in the harshest circumstances.

At the end, the house rose to the actors. But our gorges should also rise at the play’s potent reminder that we live in a rich country that treats poverty as if it were a crime.

This play cannot make us angry if we cannot see it. So let’s have a tour – or a TV adaptation. How about it?

Source: Love review – engrossing homelessness drama leaves us enraged | Stage | The Guardian

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