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Leaving review at Northern Stage, Newcastle-upon-Tyne – ‘effective verbatim theatre’

Rosie Stancliffe in Leaving at Northern Stage. Photo: Mark Slater

Paddy Campbell made his mark with his brilliant debut play Wet House, which drew on his experiences of working in a homeless hostel. He continues to give a voice to those on the margins with Leaving, an assured piece of verbatim theatre that shares the stories of people who have been through the care system and then found themselves largely abandoned once they hit adulthood.

He deftly knits together these testimonies with those of the care professionals who do their best in the face of brutal budget cuts. The material is often heavy – tales of drugs, violence and depression – but it’s also frequently warm and funny.

The five performers, who all play multiple roles, use a technique made popular by Alecky Blythe, listening to the original interviews through headphones while they deliver the lines. The aim is to capture the natural speech patterns for greater authenticity and while it’s a bit distracting to watch, this technique pays dividends with convincing performances.

Rosie Stancliffe is particularly strong as Keira, a damaged young woman who’s always in trouble and as social worker Eric who runs ultra marathons to cope with the stress of the job. Luke Maddison shines as Steve, a likeable young man with mental health problems but big ambitions.

Katherina Radeva’s unfussy set design is scattered with small white boxes, each one bearing the name of a character. This device both helps distinguish between the performers’ various roles and neatly encapsulates the transient life of those shunted around the care system.

Amy Golding’s direction is efficient and well-paced. The production only loses energy on the few occasions when the audience is asked to wear headphones too, for a supposedly more immersive experience.

Verdict
Warmly-performed, effective and compassionate piece of verbatim theatre
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