Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Hard hitting exposé of the forced relocation of pregnant women from E15 in the post-Olympic gentrification of yet another part of London.
Facing skyrocketing rents and forced relocation outside the metropolis, twenty nine single mothers got together three years ago in order to challenge Newham Council’s gentrification of the area many of them had lived all of their lives, the place they called home but in which they could no longer afford to live.
In the three years since the campaign began, neither Newham Council nor its mayor, Robin Wales, have emerged with much credit, or indeed, dignity. And the police have been caught (yet again) working the law to their own agenda, often in direct contravention of the rights of those at the head of this campaign. The mothers’ campaign continues in earnest as it appears that, in rehousing terms nothing moves very quickly. E15, the Statford district around which the dispute focused, remains an unresolved issue, with housing lying empty (but habitable) whilst local people remain homeless or are still leaving the area to find shelter. Stealth social cleansing, if you will.
Lung’s strident, pulsing storytelling does not pull any punches. In your face the whole time, the quintet of actors (four female, one male) leave you in no doubt as to who are the victims and who are the bullies. Their dark, largely factual and objectively relayed tale is only occasionally lightened with a bit of gallows humour. As a piece of theatre it is as damning an indictment of a UK wide housing policy as you will see, a policy that has, for years, marginalised many of those that it was supposed to be helping.
The actors had a difficult task on their hands. Getting the message across that civil servants and politicians are there to work for us, not the other way around, is never easy. Far too often, emotion takes over and intelligence (and objectivity) fly out of the window. But the writing gets the balance just about right. It lets the facts speak for themselves and uses the acting abilities of the storytellers to grab and hold the audience’s attention, both of which were admirably achieved.
It’s certainly not a piece for the faint-hearted, but it certainly made me think. Is this really still happening in 21st Century Britain? Worryingly, it still is. And not just in E15, either.