If I Were a Carpenter

Dougie Blaxland
First Draft Theatre Company
Pentameter Theatre, Hampstead
(2007)

Publicity image

An extraordinary play that is actually a staged TV soap. The pace, melodrama and short, successive scenes take you from one living room to another of families in the Midlands, as personal dramas unfold.

This theatre is a lovely venue and now I’ve found it, I’m sure I’ll return again. They have done something really rare and kind: instead of packing in seats and leaving the tiniest of stages for action, they’ve left a huge space for set design and movement. It makes it a wonderful venue, even if it hasn’t done much for the profit margins over the years.

The Director (Andrew Harries) used the space well; he separates the actual action from narration (in verse) on several social themes using a white wall. Heads appear from doors in the wall to tell you about the over-burdened NHS, the archaic University entry system and our unhelpful Job Centres, to name a few. This narration is not only cleverly penned in poetry but a painful accurate depiction of fruitless State services, farcical organisations and cleverly exposes several other contemporary political debacles.

The writing is astute and there are some poignant moments; the factory worker made redundant after thirty years service in a letter that’s spelt his name incorrectly, while his daughter in the factory’s personnel department is promoted. The teenager who eventually commits suicide when the pressure to please her parents proves too much and the dole-scrounger’s wife who is desperate for her children to do/marry better.

At times, the characters feel unconvincing and more like caricatures, like the slob-father who doesn’t notice when his wife dies - but if these people didn’t always feel real, the situations in which they find themselves in sadly are.

Until 21st October

Reviewer: Zia Trench