A sad, beautiful drama about austerity Britain from new talent Katherine Soper.
Zero hours contracts – check. Government sanctions – check. Living with disability – check. Heartless, amoral, technocratic corporation that bears more than a little resemblance to a popular internet retailer – check.
Young writer Katherine Soper’s first play ‘Wish List’ touches so many Serious Social Issues that by rights the whole thing should feel like hard work. And yet ‘Wish List’ is a wonderful, human play.
That’s mostly because Soper has written a truly beautiful central character in Tamsin, a 19-year-old who had been given the rawest of deals in life: mother dead, she is sole carer to her younger brother Dean, who had just been judged fit to work, despite being housebound with OCD.
As performed by phenomonal newcomer Erin Doherty, Tamsin is shy, shattered, bright and witty. She left school with minimal qualifications and has now taken up a heartbreakingly awful zero hours job packing boxes for an internet company that sets brutal hourly targets (400 items packed) and has a Kafka-esque sanctions system for perceived slacking. It is awful, and things don’t greatly improve. But what Soper and Doherty show is the hope as well as the despair. Tamsin is crushed by the almost unbearable weight of her situation. Yet when she gets a moment’s slack, the person she could have been (and might still be) surges to the fore – her funny, tentative relationship with co-worker Luke is gentle, but it makes you almost giddy with relief (and manages to incorporate the a joyously random Meatloaf singalong).
Stylishly directed by Matthew Xia, ‘Wish List’ is further freed from kitchen sink drabness by Giles Thomas’s pulsing sound design and Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s superb conveyor belt set.
‘Wish List’ is sad and upsetting, condemnatory of the way in which automated systems replace humanity. But it’s not an angry rant, and ultimately it feels celebratory of humanity - society may be fucked, but people are still decent.