Due to be staged in April, Cap-a-Pie’s Credit – previewed in a livestreamed rehearsed reading – feels even more relevant in a world stricken by a pandemic, focusing as it does on how the government fails its most vulnerable citizens at the time they need it most. Drawing both on an expert study about the roll out of Universal Credit in the North East and conversations with those claiming Universal Credit and those working with claimants, writer Laura Lindow distils those experiences into one single, heart-wrenching story.
Filmed on the bare stage at Alphabetti, the stripped back, no frills rehearsed reading format works surprisingly well for the piece. Both Cooper McDonough and Christina Berriman Dawson give impassioned performances, with Dawson particularly compelling as the single mother trying to stay cheerful as she makes the best of her difficult circumstances, only to slowly unravel as she is eroded by a an uncaring system.
The piece captures perfectly the petty degradations and deceptions of poverty: of ‘forgetting’ to pick your child up from a friend’s until after he’s eaten a meal there; of reaching for an empty purse with an offer to pay for something in the desperate hope your offer will be rebuffed; of cancelled birthdays and school trips and pets you can no longer afford to keep. The small but cumulative humiliations of dealing with a system that is designed without empathy: one that assumes everyone has kindly friends or relatives who can give you a loan to tide you over, access to the internet, credit on your phone, and sees a lack of these things as a personal failing.
Lindow’s mix of the lyrical and the mundane is well-suited to her material, blending a gritty, personal story into an urban fable that is both strongly grounded in its North East location while painfully aware such stories are not the province of only one place. It also recognises that, in a world facing such unprecedented challenges, this dehumanisation has consequences for us all. It’s easy to ignore or demonise ‘benefit scroungers’ from the security of a regular paycheque, but when calamity overthrows old certainties, few of us are safe. We clamour for support from our Government, outraged that they can treat us so dismissively, but why should we be surprised? They’ve treated people like numbers on a spreadsheet for years. We allowed it because they were ‘others’, without ever realising they were us.
Credit was livestreamed from Alphabetti Theatre on 16th September. More info here.