A seventeen-year-old working class boy (Will Mytum) stands alone outside a school waiting for his young brother Matti at the start of Niall Ransome’s well-written poetic monologue FCUK’D.
They live on a bleak council estate with their mother who spends most of her time in bed with alcohol having retreated from the world. Their father left a long time ago.
The boy is the carer and he tells us Matti “looks after the books. I look after him.”
His own school experience was troubled. Being out of school is for him like being out on probation from a prison. But, in a moment of regret, he recalls booing a small girl in a blue dress who bravely stood on a school stage singing.
That was a time when his “new favourite game was pushing them to the edge to see if they jump."
The cliff edge is an image that recurs in this bleak Christmas story of children making do in a world without support. It is where the boy feels he is most of the time.
Will Mytum gives a strong, engaging performance. His words are underscored by Peter Wilson’s imaginative unsettling sound design, his actions often given a chilly emphasis by Jess Bernberg’s lighting design.
The boy tells us of the area he lives in that, “you wouldn’t want to get lost down here. Don’t take the wrong turn. You’ll get your head kicked in. This is England.”
Yet even the little security they have is threatened by a decision to take Matti into care. In response, the brothers go on the run, sleeping rough under bridges, shoplifting for food and surviving the best they can.
Niall Ransome writes compassionately about their difficult circumstances and paints a picture of hope in the brothers’ warm, positive relationship that contrasts with the cold remoteness of the authorities.
There are moments of humour as they play “I Spy” or mess about in the rain. And they are fantastically loyal to each other.
The boy is one of the usually invisible army of children who are holding families together without support in areas that seem abandoned by society.
Niall Ransome’s gentle play helps us care and understand the situation all the better to change it.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna