Removed, Prime Cut Productions
Brian Friel Theatre Belfast
Sometimes, less is more. A boy, a bench and a backdrop is all that’s needed to create a whole world in Fionnuala Kennedy’s exceptional drama Removed.
It’s Adam’s world – and Kennedy has woven it together through the stories of many children who have lived through the care system here. It’s a world apart from the stable family homes most of us enjoy – and Adam offers us the chance to peek through the window at those other houses, and other lives.
Adam was just nine when he returned home to find the police at his door. An officer tells him and his little brother to pack their things into a bag ‘a bin bag!’ and they’re whisked off – away from everything they know and love – and brought to a foster home.
It’s almost a year – and several homes later – that Adam learns he’ll never be returning to his alcoholic mother. He’s alone within a system that provides care without caring, and looks after him without seeing. Conor Mitchell’s delicate soundscape brings this world to life, along with images from Conor McIvor which flicker and fade against the set.
Director Emma Jordan has coaxed a compelling, nuanced performance from newcomer Conor J Maguire as Adam, who reels off the names of all the social workers who’ve been responsible for his care: Patsy 1, Patsy 2, Linda, the one with the limp, the one with the red hair, Paul, Kate… it goes on and on. He’s finally unanchored when he’s sent to a children’s home, where kids can do as they please as long as they’re in by 11pm.
Maguire has the full attention of the audience, as he leads us through a life without parents. His shy smile and bewildered eyes hint at a much deeper hurt than his words convey.
On his 18th birthday, he must leave the home. Fend for himself. Become an adult overnight. Such an ask for a child who’s been bussed and bumped from house to home for half his life.
Adam’s story – and all those who inspired it – packs such a punch, thanks to Kennedy’s powerful, pure narrative about a lost boy, a bin bag and a little red car.
* Removed is playing as part of this year’s Belfast Children’s Festival