Opening in the week of the Conservative Party Conference Aaron Lamont’s new play Safer, for Trifle Productions, reveals a flip side to David Cameron’s ‘big society’. It is the story of Phil and Betty, an elderly couple who have barricaded their home against the outside world where society has broken down and armed gangs roam the streets.
Brave Phil (Michael Grinter) makes occasional foraging trips, returning with canned food and goods from empty shops and bins. He also brings tales of the danger beyond the safety of their home. Betty (Maggie Turner) believes his stories and lives as he does in perpetual fear of the hoodlums who lurk outside, waiting to break in.
But as the play unfolds it becomes clear that the broken society is Phil’s creation to keep Betty where he wants her, in the home looking after and relying on him for everything. It is only when a young man - Ant (Josh Enright) - breaks in to their home, that Betty begins to challenge Phil’s version of how things are.
Atmospheric set and sound, together with effective direction from Benjamin Bate, give a strong sense of Phil and Betty’s prison-like situation. However, the play fails to fully explore the dramatic potential of their strange relationship. Less time could have been spent establishing their situation, and more on why Phil keeps his wife a prisoner and why she lets him. Safer would be a stronger play if was less safe and took a few more risks.