Borderland

Carol Vine
Write Now 3 Festival
The Jack Studio Theatre

Betty Benjamin as Vivian and John Paton as Ben in Borderland Credit: Darren Batten
Kirstie Brough as Lucy and David Forest as Oliver in Borderland Credit: Darren Batten
Vincent Williams as Tray in Borderland Credit: Darren Batten

The Jack's sell-out new writing festival draws to a close this week with Borderland by actor-turned-writer Carol Vine.

It is a grim view of the future that lies in wait for those that society will let fall by the wayside if present day cuts continue un-checked.

Elderly and infirm Oliver is a victim of a diminished care system, left behind in a crumbling tenement block when the other tenants have been re-housed. His personal carers are long gone and his wounds are festering, he has no food and his toilet is blocked; his only visitor is teenager Lucy, who is looting the empty flats. She's scavenging stuff to sell so she can get away with her boyfriend Darren, a soldier whose experience of combat has left him angry, disturbed and impotent.

Darren's mum, Vivian, struggles to balance the love for her son with the shame at what he was doing whilst his alcoholic father seems to be the proverbial waste of space, as he and Vivian while away the hours of a life made unproductive by joblessness, in a grotty apartment plagued by power cuts.

Lucy becomes a victim to fixer Tray, who thinks nothing of pimping her for profit, or guiding Darren to share a similarly lawless path to prosperity in the underclass that has flourished. A savage act of base cruelty towards Oliver exposes a system unable to manage the mental ill-health or societal sickness that has made Darren so barbarous.

With just the barest sprinkling of humour the unrelenting misery of Borderland is almost brutal. There is undoubtedly power here but it is a bludgeoning unpersuasive watch.

With the possible exception of Vivian, there is very little to like or care for in Ms Vine's characters who between them have only a smattering redeeming features. There is also some unlikely dialogue and too few pointers to make it clear that the action is set in the future, albeit with an unnervingly contemporary feel, that might explain why Lucy doesn't arrange an ambulance for Oliver, or other occasional anomalies.

Ms Vine, who does not consider herself to be a political playwright, found herself writing a political play inspired by the effects on the vulnerable of the government's cuts.

She has been admirably ambitious here but one could argue that she has bitten off more than necessary for a single one act piece: making the punter for whom Lucy prostitutes herself want kinky sex and needing to validate himself during a mid-life crisis are both diversions that complicate and over-extend the scene.

Borderland is meaningful and promising. If Ms Vine adopts a 'less is more' approach next time round she could create something potent.

Suitable for over 18s. Contains strong language that could offend.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti