Review: If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep

Posted by Agatha Cheng

Laurence Green reviews the latest play by Anders Lustgarten - 'If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep' at the Royal Court Theatre. we ever face the possibility of the privatisation of crime whereby social bonds are issued to greedy investors which return a yield in monetary terms if crime figures rise?

This is the disturbing but thought-provoking question raised by playwright and activist Anders Lustgarten in his 75-miniute piece If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep which has received its premiere in the Jerwood new playwrights scheme at the Royal Court Theatre.

The drama comprises what initially appears to be a number of disparate episodes in which the characters gradually interact and come together in the final scene. There is a retired nurse who has a compulsory meter fitted so that she can pay £500 of national debt out of her £96 pension, and is later turned away from a neglectful hospital. Then we meet an innocent rioter who is persuaded to plead guilty so that when he doesn’t reoffend he can count on a profit for Competitive Confinement Ltd. There is also a scene in which a nursery teacher turns her back on an abandoned three-year-old to meet her new boyfriend who was previously seen as a racist inmate attacking a black cleaner in prison.

In tackling the financial markets and capitalism in a piece that imagines a new financial instrument: social bonds, through which bankers privatise crime, Lustgarten was no doubt inspired by the London riots and the occupy movement and he makes some valid points about the ineffectiveness of austerity to economic recovery and “odious debt” not deserving repayment.

A stripped back production by Simon Godwin with no scenery puts the emphasis on the cast, and the eight actors playing 20 parts certainly rise to the occasion, led by Meera Syal as a minister bureaucrat and veteran revolutionary. She receives strong support from Laura Elphinstone as a nursem teacher and protestor, and Lucian Msamati as an educated Ximbabwean exile, first seen as a prison cleaner subjected to a racist attack and later as a despised health and safety officer.

In all then a passionately argued work that reveals Lustgarten as a promising playwright.

Runs until March 9

Box office: 020 7565 5000

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