Take Care is an online adaptation of a stage play by the verbatim theatre company Ecoute Theatre based in Bristol and London. Crafted from interviews with carers over six years, the show first premiered in 2014 with a sold out run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This filmed version, produced for the Living Record Festival, has four actors of the company take you into the real lives, homes and stories of 20 such carers and the people they care for. Full of heart-wrenching, messy, hilarious and poignant moments captured through the actual words of carers without any ‘edits’, this show makes you introspect deeply about the formal (and informal) care industry in the UK.
The show is directed by Zoë Templeman-Young who also doubles up on the screenplay with Sam McLaughlin, accompanied by Matt Kirk on sound and music. Both Zoe and Sam join fellow performers Grace Saif and Hal Geller who present short vignettes, confessions and incidents from care homes and the larger subculture of ‘care’ in the country, interspersed with moments capturing the government’s changing policies and attitudes towards care workers. As the term ‘verbatim’ suggests, the overall narrative of the show is transcribed from real-life interviews with carers themselves, along with news articles and political speeches. Nothing is scripted or edited, it is presented as it was recorded, verbatim. Perhaps this is the most endearing quality of the piece itself, the stories we hear are not those of imaginary characters penned by an author but actual people that we can recognize from our own lives – from a professional care worker struggling with the financial prospects of the job and an independent care home owner battling privately-funded homes to someone who didn’t anticipate just how much time and effort their loved one’s recovery would require to someone who took to it part-time yet is now a full-time emotional commitment. These are people we know, people that exist in our own families and people we need to talk about.
While the larger social narrative around care in the world tends to focus more on those being taken care of, it’s equally important to talk about care workers themselves and the insecurities, anxieties and uncertainties they face on top of having an immensely delicate (and potentially vulnerable) duty. As someone who himself has been an informal carer to a loved one, I found these stories speaking to me personally, reminding me of my own experiences of feeling angry, exasperated or simply, tired at all that I was doing. The show gives us a glimpse into exactly this, capturing care workers’ day to day emotional, financial and physical struggles – conveyed beautifully by the actors. While the overall ensemble delivers subtle, nuanced portrayals of the different stakeholders in this narrative, a special mention must go to Hal Geller whose voice, body language and presence elevates each different scene he’s in as well as Grace Saif whose emotional hold as Pam, a woman fighting for better end-of-life care for her mother, stays with you much after the show has ended.
The online adaptation presents these stories through non-linear scenes filmed and presented across different sections, each transition scored deftly by Matt Kirk whose music paints a visual emotional soundscape about what to expect next. The sound design that combines audio from real-life political speeches and lines delivered by a performer to replicate a sort of ‘echo chamber’ that overwhelmingly highlights the need for deeper policy reforms in the care industry. The compositional approach taken by this online version is commendable – each visual frame gives us a literal glimpse into homes and lives of carer’s while subtle shifts in camera angles allows us to maintain a certain distance from the work whilst not letting us experience visual fatigue in its hour-long duration.
To summarize, Take Care leaves you with some smiles, a few gasps, many giggles and a whole lot of thoughts… perhaps it is time to afford more care to our care workers themselves.
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 8th February 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★