Review of Leaving
It isn’t often I spend my Friday evenings trying not to cry. Yet, here I was, sat amongst a sold-out crowd, looking round to see whether anyone else was on the verge of tears. For context, I was at Northern Stage to catch Leaving – a play that gained national recognition upon its first run in 2017. One year on, and the play returned to Newcastle before making pit-stops in Leeds, Alnwick, Derby and Birmingham.
Leaving, which was produced by Curious Monkey and directed by Amy Golding, tells the true stories of care leavers; their experiences of the pivotal moment they exit the care system. Testing the boundaries of verbatim theatre, Leaving was raw and wholly authentic in its approach.
The play began with sound bites of conversations with care leavers – stories that would go on to permeate the narrative. It was through sheer versatility that the small cast were able to convey a vast collection of stories, not only with sensitivity, but (crucially) with humour.
There was Keira: the star of the show, with her no-holds-barred rants on life in and out of care; Jasmine: the happy-go-lucky-type, who showed resilience in the face of adversity, and the lad who, despite suffering a heart attack at 24, was all jokes and laughter.
Paddy Campbell, who wrote Leaving, was careful not to focus too much on the negative experiences of leaving care, instead offering a well-rounded view of the system in its entirety.
“It was vitally important for me to portray a true and honest representation of how the system works,” Campbell told me. “I was very conscious in that I didn’t want Leaving to end up as a misery memoir; I wanted to get across a sense of the resilience, and the humour, these kids used to deal with everything.” For me, this translated as a narrative that left me grinning one second and holding back the tears the next.
One of the most harrowing stories was that of Sadeed, an asylum seeker, who went from challenging behaviour to a real champion. It warmed my heart. And then, of course, it was broken again; Sadeed was deported. Sadeed could have been an asset to society, but it was all taken away from him.
It was these moments of uneasiness that punched me in the pit of my stomach. Because, for all the humour and resilience in the world, it doesn’t hide the fact that young adults are being let down by the system: it’s evident in the words of these youngsters; in the stark differences between those at the top and those on the front line, and in the daily cuts to our provisions and services.
“The issues that care leavers, and society as a whole, face isn’t common knowledge; I hope the audience can take away a much greater understanding and admiration for what some young people in our society are faced with,” Campbell asserted. I, for one, have done just that.
Originally published in the March 2018 issue of The Crack Magazine.