The Lowry and Lung Theatre
Dukes Academy Trulock Rd, London
It can be emotionally and physically hard for anyone to be permanently caring for a vulnerable relative but how much more difficult can it be for a child.
Who Cares is the moving story of three children who are the main or only carer for a parent. They speak directly to the audience in words that are derived from interviews.
The play begins in the early morning.
It is 6:45AM and there are things to do for a parent before even thinking about going to school. Above them from wires on every side are hung prescriptions and Post-it notes that are a feature of a life built around another’s urgent needs.
No wonder they are sometimes late for school, sometimes incredibly tired during the day and sometimes quite emotional. Not that the teachers are necessarily understanding or sympathetic.
Connors’s (Joey Phillips) mum became severely depressed following the death of her parents and sister. “Her body was, like, healthy, but her mind was on fire.”
From about seven years old, he ended up doing the cleaning and cooking. His mother was at times violent and even attempted suicide.
Jade’s (Jessica Temple) father was paralysed in a motorbike accident and in addition to caring for him she became responsible for her younger brother Will who was deaf.
Nicole’s (Lizzie Mounter) mother had a stroke outside the school gates while waiting to collect the four-year-old Nicole. The stroke left her with long-term problems including difficulties in walking.
Some context is given to all this by workers at the Salford Young Carers Service. Paul (Joey Phillips) tells us there are 34,000 young carers in Salford. Most carers are not identified. They remain invisible and receive no financial support.
Michelle points out that they miss about 48 days school a year and that 68% of them are bullied.
The show is instantly engaging. The mood is consistently upbeat, and there are moments of humour.
Despite their difficulties, these young carers don’t regret what they have done for parents to whom they are clearly very close.
As the UK government saves money by cutting care services, it is this invisible army of children who have taken up a good deal of the burden of social care.
This was the first London stop in a national tour which began in The Lowry and finishes with a performance in front of MPs and others in the House of Lords. It should give our legislators plenty of reasons to reverse government policy.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna