Protection

Fin Kennedy
Soho Theatre
(2003)

Fin Kennedy is currently on a scholarship as Writer in Residence at Soho. He is also the son of a pair of social workers and for his first professionally produced play he draws on this milieu.

Most of the social workers that he focuses on need protection almost as much as their charges. They all seem inadequate in various ways and while they mean well, they struggle to abide by the rules with little money or time available. The latter problem is beautifully drawn out by the play's opening.

Angela, played by Saira Todd (a brave late replacement), is a politically correct worker who has an affair with the dreadful Gordon, administrator-politician supreme, who cares more for budgets than children. Damien (Matthew Delamere) likes playing with toys and imagining himself one of the boys.

The manager, the loyal, long-suffering Dawn, played poignantly by Margot Leicester, is losing her health and her hair as she fights constant battles to keep order, obtain funding and protect children.

Ironically, the two most level-headed of the workers are the retiring West Indian (Corinne Skinner Carter) and the gap-year student, Grace (Lucy Davenport).

While Kennedy addresses the problems that social workers face and some of the hottest political issues, these are not his strong suit. Where he really succeeds, with assistance from director, Abigail Morris, is in the scenes at the sharp end of the business.

When Damien tries to sort out the pregnant 15 year old prostitute Janine, Dawn the older but still hopeless Mandy (both clients played by Kellie Shirley) and Angela tries to help another 15 year old, junkie, Adam (Joe Armstrong) the play really takes off.

We begin to understand the problems of the social workers and the society in which we live as no amount of talk can ever allow us to.

This is an interesting idea from a promising young playwright who tries to do far too much in 90 minutes containing eighteen rushed scenes. Had he stuck to a piece of in-yer-face theatre about young teens and their social workers, he might have ended up with a far stronger drama.

Philip Fisher