Writers: Sam McLaughlin and Zoe Templeman-Young
Director: Zoe Templeman-Young
“People have more issues with the caring service than the person they’re caring for” exclaims one of the talking heads in Sam McLaughlin and Zoe Templeman-Young’s verbatim drama Take Care presented as part of the Living Records Festival. Reconceived as a digital film and based on their original stage play, this 65-minute show looks at the experience of caring from several important angles, giving voice to the unseen and unappreciated.
With around 20 individual perspectives woven into the show including those of the writers, a cast of four play characters based on conversations with family members who care for elderly relatives, those visiting parents in both council and agency-run care homes, NHS nurses, carer support network managers and private carers that brings a broad perspective to the show.
The message is strong and clear, that whichever perspective you take, the care system is failing everyone, and some of the best moments in Take Care explore the impact on carers’ mental and physical health as well as their lifestyles where social lives, friends and even jobs have to be given up in order to support the care needs of their loved ones. And it is the balance of these very personal and sometimes negative insights into the longer-term effects of being a carer that gives the show its punch as characters like Ruth explain how little time she had alone while Emma reveals the guilt she is made to feel in a role she wouldn’t have chosen for herself.
Take Care is interspersed with a potted political history of big promises and u-turns since the last days of the Labour government and throughout the 2010s. Narrated by Hal Geller, initially these sections look to movies like The Big Short to explain the complexity of government policy in an accessible way and while they give some chronological shape to the piece, these segments add very little to the real experiences placed around them. In transition to the screen, more on how nearly 12-months of Covid has both magnified and deepened the public awareness of vulnerable groups would have brought this section up to date.
There is some subtle but well managed variety in McLaughlin and Templeman-Young’s style, mixing single interviewees with related double acts all filmed in their socially distant Zoom boxes. But the tone of these conversations are slightly different; some are interviewed by a formal documentary maker whose questions appear on the screen in lieu of another voice, some are speaking to family members, employers or other unseen confidants that the audience only recognises from the dialogue. There is an opportunity to expand this or make it more noticeably part of the show, asking perhaps how honest, comfortable or constructive the speaker is prepared to be depending on who they are sharing these insights with.
There are excellent performances from Geller, Grace Saif, McLaughlin and Templeman-Young playing multiple identities, each well distinguished with vocal inflections, costume and personality that make the transitions clear to the audience. Take Care leaves us with a small message of hope and a call to arms although after hearing so many valuable stories, a little more on what the individual can do in support of the seven million carers in the UK would certainly be a welcome conclusion.
Runs here until 22 February 2021
The Living Record Festival runs here from 17 January until 22 February