Some things just don’t add up. Such as an average household budget when austerity Britain begins to bite. Lizzie Nunnery’s new play with songs, following her atmospheric wartime tale Narvik, tells the moving story of a Liverpool family torn apart and brought back together against the backdrop of unemployment, homelessness and the domestic turbulence that results from a cash meltdown. Brexit gets a couple of mentions but it’s the legacy of the Thatcher years that inspires the story.
Eve Brennan (Laura Dos Santos) is the financial whizz at McClasker’s store, the go-to girl to get the numbers straight. But when hard times arrive her boss and long-time admirer Alan McClasker (Patrick Brennan) has some difficult decisions to make. He relies on Eve, but even she can’t make the realities of a recession disappear. As she falls out with her colleagues and best friend, she returns home to find her van driver boyfriend Danny (Liam Tobin) has been fired after a crash; her mum Iris (Pauline Daniels) has developed Alzheimer’s; and daughter Lisa (Emily Hughes) is being bullied at school for being too clever. All in all, not a good day.
As the play progresses, the characters find themselves in all-too-contemporary settings from foodbanks and recruitment fairs. The play returns to themes of family harmony and political activism as well as the seedy underbelly of the internet (which pays for body images, even body parts). Brennan achieves a character full of life: harassed, concerned, and even passionate in an amusing torch song to Eve. It’s a shame his character morphs in the second half into an angry bad guy, lampooned for a romantic miscalculation and unfashionable musical tastes (he likes Dire Straits; Danny’s into Joy Division).
Playing at the Liverpool Everyman until July 1st, The Sum is the Everyman company’s second outing. It wears its heart on its sleeve and earned a standing ovation from an appreciative audience. Like a sort of lo-fi Les Mis, the Everyman’s talented company keep the red flag flying in what will be a timely and encouraging rallying cry for those who believe art and politics have always been brothers in arms.