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Monty Leigh

Review: CLASSIFIED at the Tristan Bates Theatre

Classified - Loosely Based Theatre Company Loosely Based Theatre Company’s Classified, as part of the Working Class Stories season at the Actors’ Centre, is made up of three interlinking plays that comment on class - some set in an imagined future.

Directed by Calum Robshaw and written by Jayne Woodhouse, Classified holds its own as a politically charged and angry piece of work. The first of three short plays - Choices - follows a near future imagined reality where children from low socio-economic backgrounds are bought by richer families from their young, vulnerable mothers. It is a comment on how we judge those from lower socio economic backgrounds, constantly berating them with statistics about their lifestyle and their bleak prospects. David Lenik, who plays the Jeremy-Kyle-esque Interviewer perfectly embodies class-based judgments by asking Leanne (performed with refreshing honesty by Anna Hallas Smith) to give up her child Jax. The Interviewer, let's call him Jeremy for now, even asks the audience to participate in the decision. It highlights the grave problem that Britain has with judging the potential of those from lower class backgrounds - and the problem it has with low wages, that can barely support a mother and child.

Set in 2080, the second play, and personally the most engaging for me was Classified. A couple are struggling to function under the weight of a rigid governance, where class is literally defined by the alphabet. Man, played by Aaron Kehoe, is a Class D. He will do anything to stay that way, whilst his infinitely kinder counterpart Woman (played by Kate O’Rourke - who has a softness that distinctly reminds me of Hayley Atwell) cares about the ‘inferiors’ - which consist of the elderly, homeless people and anyone who crosses the governance. This short play follows many twists and turns, with Kehoe and O’Rourke expertly drifting from argumentative, dangerous tension to the mundanity of everyday domestic life.

Finally, in 2090, someone is taking a stand against this governance in The Watchers. A very accurate depiction of a mother’s relationship with her teenage daughter. Whilst the Mother wants to take a quiet stand, the daughter wishes she would toe the line. Only when things really get serious, does the daughter jump in and sacrifice herself in a violent protest.

Classified is a confronting piece of work, and takes a rather twisted and tragic viewpoint on our existing world and trajectory. I do think it would benefit from either fully-commuting to a dystopian ‘Black Mirror’ style or stripping itself entirely down, as political work often benefits from having a distinct style, and staying far away from ‘being on the fence.’ Go and see it, or follow Loosely Based Theatre for more information.