- Kelly Apter
- 13 October 2016
New play for young people puts the highs and lows of caring on stage
Any regiment with almost a million members is a force to be reckoned with – and the 'army' of this show's title is no exception. Only the subject of Terra Incognita's new play isn't soldiers but carers, and the estimated 700,000 young people across the UK for whom caring is part of daily life.
The show centres on Robbie, a teenager attempting to juggle school life, looking after his mum and desperately trying to catch the eye of the beautiful Anna Campbell.
Writer Victoria Beesley spent a year and a half working with children and teenagers at the Glasgow Southwest Carers Centre, all of whom fed into the storyline. They were unanimous in their assertion that the show shouldn't be all 'doom and gloom', but should reflect the pros as well as the cons of life as a young carer – and Invisible Army does just that.
Yes we see the hardships, as young Robbie (superbly played by Michael Abubakar) risks being late for school again after buying painkillers for his house-bound mum, and rages against the universe about his lot in life. But we also see the upside: the deep bond between mother and son; the fun which although in short supply is by no means absent; the life skills Robbie picks up along the way – and the camaraderie he finds with other members of the 'invisible army'.
Director Emily Reutlinger never lets the pace drop, giving Abubakar plenty of opportunities to spread his energy and charm around the space, and tapping into the remarkable versatility of Rosalind Sydney who plays a ginger cat, the school bully and a woman recovering from a stroke with equal aplomb.
Terra Incognita was set up to tell the 'extraordinary stories of ordinary people', and if this show makes even one young carer more visible in the world, it's done its job.
Reviewed at Macrobert Arts Centre. Invisible Army tours Scotland until Sat 29 Oct.