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A concoction of politics, family stories and confusion made up the play Your Country Called… And It Wants You Back which was staged for three performances at the end of week 1 at the Dukes Theatre. The piece was put on by the teenage cast of The Dukes Young Actors & The Dukes Young Company. It was a huge set up of around 30 actors, some too young to vote. The latter point is of importance as the play is set in the present time; “two weeks away from the general elections”, as they excitingly uttered during the play. While this political theme is very current, which was refreshing, the play did lack a particular vigour in attempting to challenge the controversial issues regarding politics.
The setup of the play was around short stories relating to the UK such as a family with children about to start university in Lancaster, a local MP trying to bring about change and people who have immigrated to the UK. The big challenge of exposing the hardship faced by many in deciding who to vote and why, was given through quick snippets of these people’s lives. We were shown a range of scenarios which took place in different parts of the country. These were changed by the ensemble into living rooms, offices, streets and even a boat. This in itself was powerful as it captured how politics is relevant to all regardless from where people are. However, the issue with this is that not enough time was given to really explore one theme in detail.
The ensemble worked really well in creating scenes with their own bodies, by walking around the space, with the use of suitcases, to create monsters in nightmare scenes and to use in scenes where there were no other props. The suitcases particularly, which were old looking of various colours, were a brilliant choice in representing the migration of different people, and all their possessions fitting in such a small space. Most movingly they were used in the scene which represented the darkest side of emigration. This was the boat scene, which depicted the tight spaces people are willing to put themselves in, as it is the only way they can escape their country and seek refuge somewhere else. The actors had some of the suitcases opened across the floor and then they lay in them in a state of sleep. To start with only one boy spoke out, describing how he felt- dehydrated, tired and almost inhuman for having to risk his life so in hope of finding a safer place to live. Not only did this story clash against the scenes involving UKIP supporters and the racist violence against minorities, but it was emphasised when taking into account the recent death of over 1,000 immigrants at sea.
The play was not all as dark, as it managed to be thought provoking through the satirical investigation of politics. This was achieved by showing the politicians in parliament and the farcical manner in which they debate. In the after-talk the actors expressed their amazement at how unprofessional politicians act and how this making them less trustworthy. Another actress added that she was also unpleasantly surprised that voting choices are sometimes down to “the influence of friends and family members”. The play depicted the confusion young people feel when listening to politics in their country.
You Country Called was as much a play about politics as it was of the psychology of politics. How can young people engage more in this? Through scratching the surface of some of the most debated topics in our culture, the play is much more aimed at young people starting to understand or get involved in the daunting task of voting. As admitted by one of the actors “It is all just very confusing, there are so many factors to take into account. I have a pretty cynical view; the country is in a bit of a mess”. And so while politicians have created a distance between themselves and their young people, this play offered an insight into simply how hard it is for young people to care more about voting.