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A CurtainUp London Review
by Lizzie Loveridge
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Leo Butler's play Redundant portrays the poverty struck life of Lucy (Lyndsey Marshall), a seventeen year old girl in a Sheffield council flat. Sheffield is the northern city which was the setting for the film The Full Monty in which redundant steel workers experimented with a new career as male strippers. There is something rather incongruous about sitting in London's newly refurbished Royal Court in fashionable Sloane Square looking at the desperate poverty trap that girls like Lucy find themself in. The strength of the play which has won Butler the 2001 George Devine award for new writing is in its gritty accuracy, reproducing both the Sheffield accents and the graphic language of teenagers.
Lucy's story revolves around her hopes for love, a steady relationship, a nice home but she is let down by everybody. She has a 32 year old black boyfriend Dave (Wil Johnson), who is a small time drug dealer and who knocks her about. She latches onto middle class 17 year old Darren (Paul Trinder) hoping that a relationship with him will give her the security she dreams of. As her life slips out of control she loses custody for neglect of her baby for the second time, and beats up her own grandmother Jo (Eileen O'Brien). She stabs Darren in the hand. When Dave, realising that the baby is not his abandons her, Lucy throws a tin of paint over him. At the end of the play she is smoking crack and living with the probable father of the baby (being brought up by someone else), a crack-head named Gonzo (Craig Heaney).
The acting performances are good from the young cast but Lyndsey Marshall seems much older than seventeen. But then Lucy has packed a lot of experience into her seventeen years.
The set is sordid, with shabby furniture shabby and walls with peeling paint that are bare apart from a poster of Bob Marley. There are clues as to Lucy's upbringing by her grandmother, to her Catholicism which may have made her especially vulnerable.
Redundant is well written and well acted but there seems nothing new in its depiction of an unemployed teenage girl, pregnant, on drugs and with no prospect of fulfilling even her modest dreams of new trainers and a television. In all probability as Lucy was neglected by her mother, her children will inherit the same problems . A dismal prediction.