Who would have imagined that a play about the struggles of teenagers leaving care would make such a powerful, thought-provoking and visually stunning work?
Yet the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of 365 is just that, with its dramatisation of the stories of 11 young people’s attempts at independent living.
It starkly portrays the hardships – financial and emotional – faced by young care leavers.
Some 6,000 children in Britain leave care each year. Of those, 4,500 will have no qualifications, a fifth will be homeless and half will be unemployed two years later. Half of under 25s in prison are care-leavers.
The play offers snapshots of these lives, focusing on their experiences in “practice flats” – housing offered to some young people to learn the skills to live independently.
It captures the mixture of anger, defiance and profound vulnerability of the young characters as they struggle to survive in a hostile world.
It takes the audience through the range of reactions – from excitement through loneliness to abject terror – among the young people who suddenly find themselves adrift from the care setting that has so dominated their lives until this point.
The play combines hard realism with fantasy dream sequences and uses movement and dance to surprisingly impressive effect.
There is much humour for such a heart-breaking play. Many jokes are at the expense of social services, which misunderstands many of the needs of the young people.
It is rare to see an often hidden social issue such as this brought to life with such humanity, compassion and flair.
And it is rarer still to see a cast of young actors bringing the complexities of teenage lives to the stage in such an impressive and absorbing way.
Lyric Hammersmith, London
Until 27 September