In The Blood at the Finborough
When a homeless mother takes a cop's baton off her child and tucks it into her waistband, you know it is going to end badly but, as this new play from Pulitzer Prize winner and nominee Suzan-Lori Parks progresses, there are so many potential bad ends to consider the threat is palpable.
Set under a road bridge in New York, illiterate Hester has five children by five different fathers. Living hand to mouth Hester is a woman who has been exploited and badly let down, she clings to her children as the only good in her life and her raison d'etre, despite the strain on her physical and material resources.
You learn nothing of Hester's own childhood and ultimately what finally tipped her onto the street other but in a series of monologues by people she knows you get a picture of life once full of hope and promise that has slowly been stripped away by circumstance.
Hester tries to help herself while those around them do the same. The difference is that for those around her, helping themselves usually involves exploiting or abusing Hester.
In The Blood is a gritty drama that doesn't sugar coat the plight of the homeless, painting a grim picture of system that is ultimately failing the most vulnerable people.
The Finborough's compact performance space it at times a little claustraphobic when all six actors are on stage together but it is used well. Five actors ably juggle dual roles as Hester's children and the adults in her life, switching from baby-grows, bunches and games of tag to suited welfare workers, reverends and doctors without a flinch in the performance.
However, I must add a two notes about the Finborough. Firstly the pub downstairs is closed at present so staff are directing everyone to the corner shop for drinks to take in - don't arrive early if loitering in the street outside the theatre isn't your thing as there is very little room to stand inside.
Secondly the Finborough is currently trying to raise cash for air conditioning. Give generously because even on a day like yesterday when it hadn't been particularly sunny the theatre was quite stuffy, although not as bad as the Almeida was a few weeks ago. (Perhaps they could sell bottles of cold water for people to take in?)
In the Blood is in preview and runs until September 3, if you like bargain theatre that is in your face physically and mentally I'd give it a go. RS Rating: 3.5/5.
Whoops nearly forgot. Thought it would quite tricky this one but it turns out that Richard Pepple who plays Doctor/Trouble was in Nathan Barley in which Ben played the role a lot of people always associate him with: Pingu.