Review | Take Care, VAULT Festival ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Sam McLaughlin and Zoe Templeman-Young, inspired by their first-hand experiences of being carers, have devised a stirring piece of verbatim theatre called ‘Take Care’. This seeks to share the unheard voices of those who have caring responsibilities in the UK.

The production features real life stories taken from approximately 70 interview sessions, all performed by a four-person ensemble cast. In and amongst these scenes, the actors provide political commentary on the UK Care System complete with audio clips from politicians and other commentators. Despite the changes we’ve seen in Government since 1997, the common theme over the past two decades is that no one has arguably delivered meaningful improvements to the care system.

At the start of the show, the performances felt slightly uneven and issues with the audio meant it struggled to come into its own. But by about a quarter of the way in, the piece silently changes gear. The transitions become slicker, the accounts we hear feel grittier and there’s an undeniable sense that the show has become one that demands us to sit up and pay attention.

As we hear from the carers, young and old, male and female, professional and non-professional alike, it’s clear there are multiple issues to unpack. There’s the bureaucracy, repeated cuts to funding and inadequate pay (carers allowance works out at £50 a week). There has also been a concerning lack of checks to ensure that carers can confidently support those most vulnerable in society. Above all, we see how being a carer of someone who is nearing the end of their life can be a life-altering experience that not many people are prepared for. This responsibility can have a mental, physical and emotional toil on your well-being. From the accounts we hear, there is common thread of exasperation but also surprisingly, humour.

The title for this piece is ‘Take Care’ which could be interpreted in one of two ways. It could refer to the need for us not to neglect the well-being of carers. It could also refer to the fact that although the UK health system is revered by many, if we don’t take care we could see the care system in particular fall into disrepute. As most of us will either know of someone who is a carer or most likely we could become carers for a loved one at one point in our lives, this piece calls for us to acknowledge the challenges the system is facing and mobilise to do something about it.

Take Care is running at the VAULT Festival from 10 – 15 March 2020 at the time of writing.

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