By David Hennessy
A modern reworking of Barrie Keeffe’s My Girl, My Girl 2, shows a couple struggling with the pressures of family and debt in modern Britain. While the original showed a couple’s constant battle for survival in Thatcher’s Britain, this updated version conveys Sam and Anita’s trials and tribulations under this government.
Sam and Anita live in a small flat on a terrible, crime ridden estate in East London. They would like to move to a nicer area with their baby daughter Kate but the debts that Sam incurred in earning an education mean that the couple, who are about to receive their second child, can’t even think about getting onto the property ladder.
Social worker Sam wants to make a difference. He wants to help those who come to him for help but finds it impossible. He seems to blame himself for failing to see a child was being abused by his mother, not the father they all suspected, and released the child back into his abuser’s care. In fact, he has been so unable to leave his work at the office that his home life has become similarly out of control. However, later in the play, it is a small victory in his work life that sees him come home with lifted spirits.
“Ambition ends with a pram in the hallway,” says Sam at one point and it is clear there is some resentment towards his family. Jealousy surfaces when Sam begins spending time with an attractive female client who has had her baby taken away. You have to wonder if the, albeit perhaps temporary, absence of a child makes Karen all the more attractive to Sam.
As Barrie Keeffe says, the pay day loan companies are the villain of the piece and Sam’s tale of taking out one loan to pay off a previous one will be familiar to many. With the government tripling the cost of university fees some years ago, it is easy to see many more Sam and Anitas struggling in such ways in years to come.
Alexander Neal has impressed with previous lead roles in The Seagull and Ivanov as well as his work in Barrie Keeffe’s Sus that earned him an Off West End award nomination. My Girl 2 gives him the chance to flex comedic muscles that the Russian plays just didn’t provide. However, the same intensity is there for the heightened moments when the strain really shows.
Emily Plumtree is a revelation as the put upon Anita. The pair work well together, have great chemistry and although she has the more sympathetic character, Emily’s responses to Sam’s cruelty evokes the most emotion from the audience.