Jason Allen 15/08/22

All Of Us

Francesca Martinez is a superb stand-up comedian, actor and author.

She’s also – we now know – an equally magnificent playwright.

All of Us, which opened at the National Theatre to ★★★★★ from the Guardian, is a play about austerity, and the very real ways it affects disabled people in the UK. It’s a powerful, frustrated, darkly witty howl of rage, protesting the indifference and cruelty of ‘welfare reform’, and PIP and ETA assessments (and reassessments).

Martinez, who has cerebral palsy (she prefers “wobbly”), plays Jess, a therapist who is unable to follow her own advice, and seeks out excessive control in her own life. By contrast, there’s Poppy, played by the terrific Francesca Mills. A wheelchair user with restricted growth, Poppy is a free-spirited hedonist, a “woozy floozy” who’s preferred evening itinerary includes a spliff and a Tinder date. But it’s not, of course, all fun and games – the privations of austerity mean that Poppy is no longer has night care, and is forced to sleep in a nappy. Jess, meanwhile, loses her access to round-the-clock care when her PIP assessment deems her “mobile”, because she’s capable of walking 20 metres aided or unaided.

It’s grim and it’s unpleasant, and it’s real.

All of Us

The play is a polemic, but that makes sense – if ever anything were entitled to be polemical, it’s surely the protection and support of the segments of society who truly need it the most. It’s also, at around three hours, a little long. Director Ian Rickson (he of Jerusalem – clearly no stranger to long plays) uses the Dorfman Stage’s revolve to give the audience a clear view of each of the characters, and ensure that we see past the disabilities. The end result is a powerful, moving , unique theatrical experience. It’s a show which, as the Guardian says: “demands we build a society where we can truly see and value one another. Its insistence on radical empathy shines bright.”

NOTE: All of Us plays at the National Theatre until September 24th. You can find out more, and get a ticket right here

National Theatre | Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX

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All Of Us

The National Theatre, The South Bank , Southbank, SE1 9PX