Thought-provoking new play explores struggles of unemployment

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A NEW play that explores social issues of unemployment, the benefits systems and what it really means to be poor in the UK will come to Cumbria in the wake of the Conservative Party Conference 2017.

The Value of Nothing, a new play written by Kim Wiltshire and directed by the acclaimed Joyce Branagh, sister of Kenneth Branagh, will come to the Old Fire Station, in Carlisle, on Thursday October 12.

The recent news reports that claim that welfare reforms have driven an increase in homelessness across the UK by 135 per cent highlight the topicality and importance of the themes in this new play.

The play is touring the North West shortly after the Conservative Party Conference, which has raised the important issue of the impact of Universal Credit on those struggling to make ends meet.

The Value of Nothing is the story of a man who knew the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Ex-community artist and self-proclaimed people’s champion Vince Fine (Ethan Holmes) launches his back to work initiative, ArtWorks. Vowing to end poverty, benefits, worklessness and even mental health issues, Vince and his loyal sidekick Michelle (Jess Cummings) take on all-comers to persuade them that ArtWorks really works.

It explores these social issues through multimedia elements and lots of audience interaction, inviting the audience to play a range of minor characters in the play. The play’s script was informed by more than 20 community group workshops with young men in Bolton, therefore the play is punctuated with stories from young people about their real-life experience of living on benefits in the UK.

Mixing real-life and fictionalised stories, The Value of Nothing is a play about how we perceive people on benefits in the 21st Century.

Writer Kim Wiltshire is a writer and also a lecturer and programme leader for creative writing at Edge Hill University. Kim is passionate about using theatre to explore important social issues and to reach out to new audiences to use theatre as a public forum for debate.

Speaking about the issues of the play, she says: “What we value and who we value as a society has fascinated me for a long time. I do believe that theatre should ask questions of its audience, about where we see ourselves as human beings in our community and our society.

"If the play gets people talking and questioning each other about these issues, then I’ll consider it a success."

The Value of Nothing comes to the Old Fire Station on Thursday October 12, from 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the venue's booking office.

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