• Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023

Food For the Hungry

Because So Much Is Riding On Your Food For the Hungry

REVIEW: I, Daniel Blake – a heartrending plea for the hungry and homeless

A powerful stage adaptation of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake transforms theatre into a space where the truth becomes a beacon of hope in times of despair and extreme poverty.

I, Daniel Blake by English Touring Theatre is currently playing at The Birmingham Rep.

National treasure Ken Loach is renowned for making films about ordinary people dealing with everyday challenges such as finding food and shelter, employment and equality, overcoming class and racial prejudice, and finding hope and comfort with fellow human beings during difficult and challenging times when greed and selfishness plagues the nation.

In a country overflowing with wealth the play highlights the wide gap between the rich and poor

From the seminal Cathy Come Home (1966) which galvanised the government to tackle homelessness, Kes (1969) which looked at freedom and individuality through the eyes of a young working-class boy destined for the coal-pits who adopts a fledgling kestrel, to the romantic Ae Fond Kiss (2004) which explored the complications that arise when a young Muslim Scottish man with Pakistani heritage falls in love with an Irish woman from a Catholic background.

Over the decades Loach has used his television and feature films to fearlessly explore the human and social-political landscape and deliver perspectives that sometimes get brushed aside or ignored by mainstream media.

In 2016 Loach directed a small-budget film called I, Daniel Blake which caused quite a stir for exposing the inhuman bureaucracy of the social welfare system and the horrors suffered by people in search of help during times of hardship.

The staging makes very effective use of video projections

The government weighed in and Loach’s BAFTA and Cannes Palme d’Or winning film was labeled “fiction”. Tweeting politicians criticised the movie for depicting a Britain where austerity and unemployment had led to more and more poverty-stricken people relying on the service of food banks to survive.

The message of the film was a stark warning, a mirror held up to the fractured state of the nation, and the reflection revealed a sharper truth than the one-sided view peddled in newspapers or late night political discussions on television screens.

This stage adaptation of I, Daniel Blake by actor and playwright Dave Johns is not only timely but it looks back to the time of the original film and makes the audience realise how prophetic Loach’s film was, there’s no fiction here, just hard reality, unvarnished and real, without any gloss or distortion.

Johns, who played the central character in Loach’s film, has written a stage version for English Touring Theatre which resonates with the current cost-of-living crisis, homelessness, uncaring politicians who blame the poor for their predicament, and the vast chasm between obscenely rich millionaires and the destitute who have no idea where the next meal is coming from.

People search for hope and understanding in an unforgiving system

In a world where compassion and understanding are rapidly being bled out of the human experience by insincere, uncaring and callous politicians along comes a theatrical drama that shines a powerful light on a topical message calling out for long overdue change for those whose lives and dreams have been blighted by poverty.

The story is simple and powerful, and every note and nuance feels like a page torn from a diary.

A man who has been declared unfit for work by his doctor due to his poor health is caught like a rat in a maze when he enters the labyrinth world of the benefits system which reeks of cruelty and inhumanity.

The cruelty of the UK benefits system is exposed in the play

In his journey through a soul destroying jobcentre he meets a young mother and her child who are living on a harrowing hand-to-mouth existence.

David Nellist as Daniel, Jodie Wild as Daisy (and ensemble), Bryony Corrigan as Katie, and Kema Sikazwe as China (and ensemble), with Janine Leigh and Micky Cochrane playing ensemble, bring a startling authenticity to their roles.

The quality of acting is this production is so real that at the climax it was as if the performers on stage were not actors but real people who had lived and experienced the roles that they had played. They had no need to resort to theatrical artifice to make their characters more convincing.

Government slogans have no meaning for those who have lost everything

Designer Rhys Jarman’s staging keeps the story moving from scene-to-scene in an economical way so as to keep the focus of the audience on the drama and themes rather than spectacle and bombast which would divert attention away from the heart of this powerful human story.

The video and projection designs by Nina Dunn and Matthew Brown are very effective in bridging the world of theatre to contemporary human existence that is moving at a hectic pace with social media technology. Overhead projections allowed tweets, emails and news headlines to be flashed across the stage in an emotionally gripping manner which commented on the unfolding drama.

Director Mark Calvert keeps the action flowing smoothly, and he refrains from letting anything unhinge the finely tuned story and turning it into a soapy melodrama.

Homelessness blights the life of the poor and destitute

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation a 2022 report on poverty found that over 14 million Britons are living in poverty. Their stories of daily hardships, and enduring horrific abuse in their quest to find food and accommodation, remain largely untold.

I, Daniel Blake addresses the deafening silence and gives voices to the starving millions and its asks for compassion for those who have lost jobs, homes, families, and health, yet despite their deep grief and loss they still believe in the healing power of love and friendship.

If there’s only one play that you see at the theatre this year, make it this one.


I, Daniel Blake is now playing at The Birmingham Rep until Saturday 24 June

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https://www.iambirmingham.co.uk/2023/06/15/review-daniel-blake-heartrending-plea-hungry-homeless/https://www.iambirmingham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Micky-Cochrane-as-a-homeless-man-in-I-Daniel-Blake_pe-800×503.jpghttps://www.iambirmingham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Micky-Cochrane-as-a-homeless-man-in-I-Daniel-Blake_pe-300×189.jpgRangzeb HussainCommunityHomelessnessReviewsWhat’s OnAe Fond Kiss,Austerity,B’ham,BAFTA,Birmingham,Birmingham REP,Brum,Bryony Corrigan,Cannes,Catholic,Cathy Come Home,Cost of Living Crisis,Daniel Blake,David Nellist,Drama,England,English Touring Theatre,Entertainment,Falconry,Film,Homelessness,I,I Am Bham,I Am Birmingham,Irish,Janine Leigh,Jodie Wild,Joseph Rowntree Foundation,Kema Sikazwe,Ken Loach,Kes,Kestrel,Mark Calvert,Micky Cochrane,Midlands,news,Pakistani,Palme d’Or,Plays,Poverty,Rangzeb Hussain,Romantic,Scottish,Shows,Stage,Theatre,UK,Unemployment,West MidlandsA powerful stage adaptation of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake transforms theatre into a space where the truth becomes a beacon of hope in times of despair and extreme poverty.
I, Daniel Blake by English Touring Theatre is currently playing at The Birmingham Rep.
National treasure Ken Loach is renowned…
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