Wandering the nether corridors of The Banshee Labyrinth, Tim and The Devil go to see Sophia Walker’s Can’t care, Won’t care
THE DEVIL: Do we do awards? I want to do awards. I want to nominate this for the Philip Pullman prize for the show with the darkest material.
TIM: Quite! The premise is pretty simple. The show casts the audience in the role of a jury hearing evidence on whether or not a care worker is guilty of homicidal negligence after the death of one of her patients.
THE DEVIL: Not “patients.” One of her “service users”. The language is important.
TIM: That phrase still makes me shiver. I don’t know how it manages to be so dehumanising. Anyway, Sophia portrays two characters on stage. One is based on herself and her experiences whilst working in the care system. The other is The State incarnate, a cruel accuser who rattles off her transgressions and reads aloud from the relevant codes of practice. The story focusses on three specific occasions where Sophia either did not or could not act in accordance with these codes of practice. In between these vividly depicted scenes, Walker explores how budget cuts and re-tendering processes make it almost impossible to provide any sort of care at all. Her clear and abundant knowledge of the system is evident in every word and her anger is entirely on display.
THE DEVIL: She was pretty cross. Mind you, the character of The State seemed pretty angry at her for whining and not taking responsibility for what she’d done. Something with which I do tend to empathise.
TIM: I was battered by the end. Walker unloaded both barrels of fury and it was unrelentingly aggressive. There was a little disconnect for me at the end though. The show is framed as being open to the audience to deliberate on their verdict. I just felt that the decision was obvious. I didn’t feel like I had two sides to consider. The State was so unsympathetic that I don’t know how anyone could have decided against the care worker.
THE DEVIL: I don’t agree. She admitted to breaking rules.
TIM: Stupid, impossible rules.
THE DEVIL: I think that’s the point. Anyway. Poetry. Sophia Walker boasts being BBC slam champion and winner of the PBH Best Spoken Word Show of 2013. What did you make of her use of language?
TIM: I was seriously impressed. I need to do a whole blog post on the use of wordplay and the effect it has on the listener experience but suffice to say that Sophia delivered a masterclass. Her use of rhyme never came across as forced, never diminished her credibility or her intensity. Instead, it served to keep me focussed on her performance. I was hooked and re-hooked by her voice. And I was haunted by the ambiguity of it all. Was everything she said true? Did she collate experiences together into one narrative? I think a lot of the power of the piece came from that and I’m glad she didn’t diminish it with explanation.
THE DEVIL: Wrap up?
TIM: There are stories that need to be heard and there are stories that need to be told. This is both. Sophia’s performance feels like a purge. Her frank honesty and poetic craft add art to her vitriol. This was a bitter performance to endure. And that felt entirely fitting.
Tim Ralphs is a storyteller and his show of urban devilry Rebranding Beelzebub is on every night from 2 August 2014 to 24 August 2014 at 9:50pm in The Banshee Labyrinth. A PBH free fringe performance – you only have to pay what you think the Devil is due.