Monday, 16 May 2016

FOUR STAR REVIEW for Better Together at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley

Lewisham playwright David Weir has a hit on his hands with Better Together.
The play, now on at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley, is set in Burntisland, Fife and centres on the lives of the Finlay family in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum.
Elder daughter Shona (Rosalind McAndrew) is an unemployed single mum in her early 20s. The father of her baby is residing at her Majesty’s pleasure a three hour bus ride away.
Younger daughter Arlene (Eleanor Morton) is “the bright one”, passionate about politics, particularly Scottish independence, and on her 18th birthday, announces her intention to leave the nest and go to university in Sweden.
Dad Adam (Rikki Chamberlain), who likes a drink every now and again, is none to pleased about this news, and tries every trick in the book to keep her in Scotland, including offering her a partnership in the shipyard business he runs with wife Margaret (Kate Russell-Smith).
And then there is mum Margaret who tries her best to keep the family together.
Although the play touches on the politics of the independence debate, and the passions that ran deep throughout the campaign, it is about much more than that.
It is a fascinating look at the lives of those who live in a small town which relies on one industry to provide the jobs and what happens when that industry fails.
Weir paints a vivid picture of what life is like for the people of Burntisland and the Finlays in particular - Arlene who would have voted leave in the referendum had she been old enough to vote at the time, is lucky as she has the ability to escape.
But it’s not that easy for the rest of them. Shona is stuck there with no job, or the prospect of one and she feels trapped. This is exacerbated by the fact that she is also lonely with no chance of getting another boyfriend thanks to the family of her baby’s father - one unlucky suitor ended up in hospital with a series of broken bones for his trouble.
Their parents soon realise that “a handshake” is not what guarantees loyalty, jobs and contracts and we see how their fortunes change almost overnight.
Although the ending is somewhat predictable this is a brilliantly written play with a tight, 90-minute long script and great performances from the four-strong cast.

Better Together is on at the Jack Studio Theatre in Blockley Road until May 28. Visit for full listings.

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