Christopher Eccleston recently said that he feared working class actors - and as a result working class voices - were becoming a dying breed in Britain. He was speaking from over in New York which has been home since he was cast in HBO’s The Leftovers. Had he cupped his hand to his ear and listened very closely he might just have got a nice surprise from back in Blighty.
Slung Low Shorts has just opened in Leeds and the six plays by different writers, each lasting around 15 minutes and performed in one evening, puts the working class voice absolutely and unashamedly centre stage.
Teapot is set in a tattoo parlour as two friends fall out and back in love again. Peace of Mind is inspired by the idea of austerity taken up a notch and is set in a world where parents who don’t have enough money in the bank are forced to effectively pawn their children. Then there is The Bee Mask, played out in a classroom and a beautiful reminder of why the public sector and teachers in particular deserve a pay rise.
There’s more. There’s a threesome that begins in a nightclub. There’s Margaret Thatcher. And there’s Jimmy Savile. You get the picture.
It was a very different line-up last year when there was a large shot of comedy injected into the work. But then last year we hadn’t had Brexit, we hadn’t had Donald Trump and we hadn’t had Theresa May.
It’s not there aren’t laughs - there is even a fart gag - but these are dark subjects for dark times. And that’s the beauty of Slung Low Shorts. It’s an annual two hour snapshot of the society in which we live. It tackles subjects that generally don’t make it to the stage and the mini-plays are peopled with characters so often silenced.
If he were here, Eccleston would lead the standing ovation.
Slung Low Shorts, Holbeck, Leeds, to July 23.