Aug 9 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆    Chillingly relevant

Rose Theatre (venue 76): Sun 6 – Mon 28 Aug 2017
Review by Lucy Evans

Assessment is a chilling exploration of the future of pensions in a time of austerity, from Shows on a Shoestring at the Rose Theatre for the full fringe.

What is your life worth? asks critic-turned-playwright Robert Dawson Scott in this Swiftian satire that looks at what it’s like to be old in Britain today.

Stephen Clyde. Pic Aidan O’Mara

It’s the near future, and the government is struggling with ever-rising pension costs. Quasi-government organisation WellGov is tasked with finding a solution. Their response – offer a lump sum to anyone above life expectancy age in exchange for their “future pension rights”. In other words, euthanise them.

Alan is the show’s anti-hero. At 77 he has reached his life expectancy and is the perfect first candidate for the new Pension Exchange Scheme. The tense birthday celebration his daughter has thrown together in their flat is disrupted by a WellGov rep’s uncomfortable sales pitch, and Alan is having none of it.

The concept is a brave one, as it’s a topic that includes plenty of jargon and heavy facts. The first scene needs to work hard to introduce the show and set up the dystopian world. Under Alice Langley’s direction the sturdy script does succeed, even if it’s a little clunky and perhaps longer than necessary.

ominous coincidence

Using WellGov rep Amrit (Taqi Nazeer) to explain the scheme to Alan is an effective way to introduce concepts and figures into the show, and Nazeer is every bit the perky government official.

Many of these facts are taken from real government documents, and when the BBC Radio 4, with ominous coincidence, ran a feature on this week’s Money Box called Death of retirement: Can the UK afford the state pension? the line between near-future and present was eerily blurred.

Stephen Clyde carries the show as Alan. His monologue, directed at a portrait of his deceased wife, allows for emotional development in a show otherwise teeming with information. Alan’s daughter Karen (Karen Bartke) however is much less developed and while Selina Boyack has a commanding presence as the WellGov boss, the villain is almost too storybook.

The contrast between Alan and his surroundings means the show never quite moves from good idea to compelling drama, despite the scripts’ best efforts. Nevertheless, it is a gripping concept and raises all the right questions about what is valued in society today.

Running time: 1 hour (no interval)
Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre, 204 Rose Street, EH2 4AZ (Venue 76)
Wednesday 2 – Monday 28 Aug 2017
Daily (not 15): 2:30pm
Tickets and details:

Facebook: @showsonashoestring
Twitter: @showsonastring, @AssessmentShow


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