The Sum, Theatre Review. Everyman Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: Patrick Brennan, George Caple, Pauline Daniels, Laura Dos Santos, Emily Hughes, Tom Kanji, Asha Kingsley, Melanie La Barrie, Dean Nolan, Zelina Rebeiro, Keddy Sutton, Liam Tobin.

The balance sheet that people live their lives by, the counting out of every penny just to make ends meet, the sense of never getting ahead of the game and spiralling ever deeper into the world of debt, of being on the streets. This is a world in which the feeling of inhumane, of intolerable suffering, is so prevalent, so close to everybody’s thoughts that it is surprising that there is less vocal anger than there should be at politicians who see food banks as a complex reason, who see the poor as deserving and it always feels like the world of politics is one step away from re-introducing that most evil of Victorian values, the workhouse.

The trouble is we are offered a small vestige of hope, that each morning we perhaps wake up and sense a glimmer of optimism that the day might change, that we might be seen as human rather than a disposable set of numbers, that the system might become fair, that Government might see beyond the need to keep people down and instead build a society capable of achieving worth, not be seen as nothing more than The Sum.

Lizzie Nunnery’s latest play is one in which the fabric of a person’s life is boiled down to numbers, the cut in hours means cuts at home, cuts in the community, the slashing of a person’s identity and self peace, to the point where the slow descent into possible prostitution, even one that does not require the selling of sex, becomes a very real possibility; we all have to eat, we need to keep warm and have a roof over our heads but that is merely existing and until people wake up to the fact we have all been deceived by the sense of hope, offered like biscuits at a sewing circle afternoon, then The Sum will always be carried out and will take more people down with it.

Laura Dos Santos presents this feeling of drowning in despair and debt perfectly, a woman juggling a mother with a severely challenging illness, a daughter who is incredibly clever but dealing with usual teenage issues and a partner who cannot grasp the issues surrounding their lives properly enough; it is the everyday, a family at the mercy of economics, of institutional hatred towards the hardworking poor, to the disabled, to the young and it could happen to anyone.

The Sum is a play that captures the depth of the fall perfectly, that people believe that poverty and being poor is deserved is going back to a period when George Orwell was writing about being on the streets of Paris and London, of the obscene lack of humanity shown to anyone as they struggle finically. We are all sold a dream, the life of a normal person, yet at anytime that dream can become a nightmare, a living Hell.

A superbly written and observed production, Lizzie Nunnery has once more gone above and beyond to bring something tremendously poignant to the stage.

Ian D. Hall