Enemies of promise

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
DEAR NOBODY. By Berlie Doherty (adapted from her own novel) with resource material by Rachel O'Neill. Collins Educational (Plays Plus) Pounds 4.20. - 0 00 3200043.

This play has a good pedigree. Adapted by the Carnegie Medal-winning author from her highly successful novel, it won the 1994 Writers' GuildWimpey award for the best children's drama and was first produced at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Helen and Chris are sixth-formers at a Sheffield school, Chris destined for university, Helen for music college. A sunny relationship burgeons, but Helen becomes pregnant. suddenly their lives of promise seem thwarted. The play chronicles how they adapt. Both Helen and Chris have family histories that throw their situations into relief. As important as the present generation's story is that of the old, charting changes of perception and understanding.

The play deals maturely and illuminatingly with a vital subject for young people. Does Chris get away too lightly? It suits Helen: what might many like her in real life think? Considering their mothers, can one ask if anything ever really changes? Such questions reverberate: they seem worth whole terms of personal and social education.

Thus the text has many school uses. The clear, well-observed, often moving dialogue (Nan's wonderful account of her own childhood and Helen's letters to "Nobody", her unborn child) and the shifting, fluid staging make it ideal for school production as well as group reading and walk-through sessions. The production notes are useful. The "Plus" part of the series' title is explained by the comprehensive resource material: themes, images of motherhood, parenting, responsibilities of both the unmarried mother and the father, historical attitudes, work on the text, improvisation of other outcomes, comparative literature (Tess of the D'Urbervilles, A Taste of Honey). A worthwhile production, this is much recommended.

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