Apple Jelly by Adrian Middleton

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 13 March 2012
Apple Jelly is the kind of play that left me feeling frustrated at the ways in which initiatives designed to help hitherto marginalized people feel part of society are being ruthlessly cut in contemporary Britain as a result of "the cuts," yet no one seems to be taking much notice. Whenever I turn on the television news, or listen to the radio, there are plenty of comments about bankers' salaries, and the Prime Minister's vision of "the big society" (whatever that means), but no one seems particularly interested in fighting to preserve more inclusive schemes.
Based on interviews with people directly affected by the cuts, Apple Jelly integrates two stories: the one involving Sam (Jo Mcinnes), a fitness instructor who agrees to run a weekly fitness programme at a residential rehabilitation project for young mothers with drug addictions; the other focusing on Gary, a young man who spent most of his life in special schools, and now has to learn to integrate into an office environment. Both projects involve working with people who hitherto have not had much chance in life: at the rehabilitation project Sam encounters a variety of people, including Chrissie (Petra Letang), who seems particularly reluctant to participate in the activities on offer.
While the material is certainly familiar: as with most projects of this kind, Sam can only move forward one small step at a time, while realizing that she could also retreat two steps back, in spite of her best intentions. She has to learn how to relate to the mothers, as well as empathize with them; this is no mean task for someone who hitherto has spent most of her life working with well-heeled clients willing to pay fantastic sums of money for her advice.
What makes the play so poignant is that, at the moment when Sam, Chrissie and Gary seem to be on the point of achieving something, their respective projects are abruptly curtailed due to funding cuts. We hear an extract from one of the Prime Minister's speeches, encouraging people to do voluntary work, but sometimes goodwill isn't enough. Everyone has to be looked after in a decent society, and it's the government's responsibility to deliver the goods.
As I've said before, when reviewing plays of this kind (e.g. Occupy, about the occupation of St. Paul's, another drama-documentary recently broadcast on Radio 4), I wish ministers would take some time out to listen to this kind of material. Perhaps they might learn something about what voters really think, rather than relying on statistics.