Redundant

Leo Butler

Royal Court Theatre

(2001)

Review by Philip Fisher

Everyone loves Luce. Her English teacher did to the extent that he got her pregnant at 15. So do big bad Dave, twice her age but in thrall to her, Darren who can't quite keep away and even mad crack-dealing Gonzo. The last is a kind of homage by Butler to Hunter S. Thompson, or perhaps more to Johnny Depp's film portrayal.

Her granny and sister also feel the same way so this girl has some charm. She also has a psychotic nature that means that each of these people is in constant danger of being hurt. You soon begin to understand why they treat her as they do and why they all love and hate her.

This play at the Royal Court has already won the George Devine Award for 2001 and is reminiscent in its Northern bleakness of work by Jim Cartwright. Luce is hardly Little Voice but she might have grown up around the corner in Sheffield.

Lyndsey Marshal has already shown her talent at the Royal Court as the daughter in Fireface and at the Donmar as the maid in Boston Marriage. She deserves an award for her portrayal of the schizophrenic but aptly named Luce. You begin to understand how the little girl who has missed out on childhood can tame the hardest man or woman.

She retains the optimism of a dreamer who can forget all of the badness of the world and in herself in an instant. She is happiest either playing Cluedo like a child or trying out Gonzo's smack. Her ambitions are well delineated and not only out of reach but incredibly banal. That is what is so sad about this play. A two up two down with a couple of children, a nice pair of trainers and a Ford Fiesta is the stuff that dreams are made on.

The set designed by Robert Innes Hopkins is one of the best bedsitters out, very flexible but realistic and the scene changes are cataclysmic. A tribute to the imagination of top director, Dominic Cooke who also brings the best out of a mainly young cast, especially Miss Marshal.

There is some humour to leaven the horror but the general feeling at the curtain is of shock. A realisation that far too many kids have no real future and do live pretty much like this. This could be a millennial Cathy Come Home.

This play may not be too cheerful but the writing is very realistic with good dialogue and structure. There are also some funny touches. Anyone who sees this play is unlikely to eat chips from the local Chinese takeaway for some time. Leo Butler is an assured playwright who already demonstrates real talent.