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A review of the play Shallow Slumber – the story of a social worker by a social worker

Actors performing in Shallow Slumber (c) Camilla Greenwell

Shallow Slumber has come along at a time where the media appears to be actually paying attention to what social workers go through every day in order to help keep vulnerable people safe. The play makes for some uncomfortable viewing as well as opening up a lot of questions. Chris Lee, the playwright, is a registered social worker, so he certainly knows his subject matter and he is not afraid of touching material that perhaps others would not. This makes the play difficult to watch but ultimately quite rewarding. It allows the audience to question social work, put themselves in the shoes of a social worker and see what they have to go through in their day-to-day lives, even in the worst circumstances.

The story revolves around two characters, Dawn, a young mother, played by Amy Cudden and Moira, her social worker, played by Alexandra Gilbreathe. The range of emotions that both of these characters bring to the play is nothing short of astounding. The change in personalities they are able to convey in a short time (the play runs under 2 hours) really does give you food for thought. Moira starts off as the young, bright and enthusiastic social worker, but Dawn’s case soon changes her and her life. Dawn is a wealth of insecurities one moment and a bolshie young woman the next; swearing and shouting at Moira, until she realises she can’t do without her support. Their lives become so entwined with each other (perhaps brings to question professional boundaries), that when the play reaches its conclusion, it hits you with some force, and you wonder how social workers put themselves through such things every day.

There were a couple of moments during the play where it was easy to tell that most of the audience were either social workers, or people who had experience of social work, as the audience made knowing laughter at things that Moira was saying! The discussions that were hosted after a couple of the plays were a nice touch. They allowed the audience to speak to people who work in the field of social work and get some professional views on what they had just seen. Some of the people who spoke at the sessions included GSCC Chief Executive Penny Thompson, Claire Barcham from The College of Social Work, Graham Ixer from the GSCC and Graham Beech from NACRO (the crime reduction charity), who added some interesting debate.

Overall, Shallow Slumber is a deeply affecting play, whether you are a social worker or not. It certainly made its audience feel emotionally wrung out, and full of questions about the characters; why they did what they did and how they reacted.  Anyone who has ever questioned the role of a social worker needs to see this play, and to put themselves in Moira’s shoes to see if they could deal with a case like this before berating the profession.

Read about Chris Lee’s inspiration for writing the play on our website .

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