During the interval of Jack Thorne's latest play Hope @polyg and I were discussing how the play posed an impossible question. The fictional town council at the heart of the story is setting its budget. It must make substantial savings but doesn't have the means to generate extra income in the amounts necessary to compensate.
The councillors are faced with impossible questions of whether to cut such services as disabled day care or residential care for the elderly. Do they close the library and keep the museum open or cut classes and swim lessons at the local baths? Trimming a few quid here and there isn't going to get the numbers they require.
The baddie in this is not on stage, its central Government. It would have been easy to slip into stereotype, show a council full of bluff and a history of reckless spending. Instead these are committed and essentially good people faced with making decisions that will impact on some of the most vulnerable and in need. This is austerity.
In fact I think he's succeeded in writing a teenage character I like. Jake (Tommy Knight) is the son of the deputy council leader Mark (Paul Higgins) who is divorced from Jake's mother (Gina) Christine Entwistle) who runs the disabled day care centre which is facing closure. OK Jake is a smart aleck but for once he is clever and interested and has an interesting view of the world.
In Hope, Thorne not only succeeds in bringing fresh appreciation of the impact austerity is having at a local level but, despite the gloomy subject, he somehow manages to leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. There is a wit and humour in the characters, they have the usual human flaws but equally they have good intentions.
It is something the creeps up on you in the second half, the subtle realisation that when there are good people trying there is a shred of hope. It shouldn't happen with such a topic under the spotlight but it does.
Hope doesn't immediately strike you as play for the season of goodwill but actually it is perfect. It runs at the Royal Court until Jan 10.