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Fiona Doyle

Theatre Uncut at Southwark Playhouse

Theatre Uncut is a national theatre event created in response to the most severe spending cuts seen in Britain since World War II.

The event is open to everyone from students to pensioners and there are over 700 participants involved in the UK alone with events also taking place in New York and Berlin. Theatre Uncut's flagship event took place at Southwark Playhouse Vaults over a four-day period with contributions from a variety of writers including Mark Ravenhill, Dennis Kelly and Lucy Kirkwood.

The eight short plays cover a variety of subject matters. Some of the writing is direct and factual like Anders Lustgarten's The Fat Man which is less actor-monologue and more economic-speech pertaining to the financial crisis and bailouts.

Whereas Open Heart Surgery, a monologue by Laura Lomas delivered powerfully by Kate O'Flynn, indirectly and subtly highlights the potential effects of NHS cuts.

Fragile by David Greig also looks at the NHS 'efficiency savings' with a clever duologue in which the audience is required to play the part of Caroline, a mental health worker. She wakes one night to find Jack, a man suffering from mental health issues, in her living room. The interactive nature of this piece really embeds the information about the issue and the role of Jack is played powerfully by actor Syrus Lowe.

The second half of the evening touches on issues such as tertiary education spending cuts and the public versus private debate. Zawe Ashton relishes her role as the ruthless accountant in Lucy Kirkwood's Housekeeping, a darkly comic piece that personalises the clearing of debt and the potential human cost involved.

A Bigger Banner by Mark Ravenhill is primarily concerned with state-funded education as ghosts from past and future facilitate a clash between two very different political periods. The supernatural element feels a little crude at times but ultimately leaves the spectator with an acute awareness of the history and ideals related to state-funded education and the tragedy in store if those ideals are disregarded and forgotten.

All eight plays certainly succeed in giving rise to debate and discussion and the overall event is an admirable theatrical response to a very topical issue.

19 March saw a national theatrical 'uprising' as hundreds of performances of the plays took place across the UK. Visit www.theatreuncut.co.uk for advice and ideas. You can also download versions of the scripts and find out how to share films and photos of the various events. All the writers have agreed to donate their work rights-free for the duration of the event and ticket sales profit will be donated to the Child Poverty Action Group.

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