Play shines a light on some tough questions

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The Dukes’ Creative Learning Department has run Shattering Images for a number of years now.

This is a group for young people aged between 16 and 40 with learning and physical disabilities who stage a regular annual showcase, and their latest offering was a new piece, Diamonds Aren’t Forever, performed last week in The Round at The Dukes.

Using the classic film title as a starting point, this new piece looks at the real and perceived values of extreme wealth in our contemporary society. In these days of unrelenting financial, social and political crisis, this is a very hot question.

The scenario is this: a group of nine youngsters, all of whom depend on carers to lead balanced, complete and happy lives, are feeling the various pinches as financial constraints bite even more painfully. Their carers, other facilities and activities are facing job losses and closure, and the gang isn’t happy.

The piece also asks “What would you do with a million pounds?” How should it best be spent? How do we pay for the unemployment resulting from the present situation? What is the rôle of the banks – what should it ideally be? “Your happiness is priceless” is their tawrdy mantra.

So when a prized diamond goes on display at a fictitious Lancaster Bank, the gang decides to take action. A daring heist is planned and cunningly executed, the gang caught and brought to trial. We the audience were asked, during the case, to condemn or acquit the gang on the prosecution and defence evidence. And what about the patently corrupt authorities whose case was also put to the jury?

Director and facilitator Jilly Sumsion used striking contemporary multimedia devices to explore the different aspects of the case and raise vital questions. Miminal, effective props, TV news footage, flashmobs, music, masks, mime and dance were all strikingly employed.

Over twenty five centuries ago, Sophocles said: “Money! There’s nothing worse in our lives; it’s everywhere, untameable, destroys cities, corrupts, makes hordes homeless and perverts the minds of men to the vilest, most unjust actions. It’s evil, criminal, unstoppable.”

You can probably guess the verdict of the audience.

Diamonds Aren’t Forever asks some painful, very direct questions about the rich and the out-of-work, the prosperous and the neglected, the thrivers and those unable to develop and celebrate their own lives. The questions are somehow so much easier to answer when posed so vividly and directly by the victims, and the audience too could end up agreeing with Sophocles:

“Everybody who’s been ever party to these crimes can be certain that sooner or later they will pay the price.”

The Dukes’ Creative Learning team has brought off a daring and triumphant assessment of a difficult, ubiquitous, urgent and vital contemporary matter. Perhaps we are all paying the price already.