Nightmare vision

The Lifesavers by Fraser Grace at Colchester Mercury Studio until March 7.

David Henshall

The Lifesavers by Fraser Grace at Colchester Mercury Studio until March 7.

It's a nightmarish play about the infallability of the human spirit. You can torture it, brainwash it, subject it to every kind of horror imaginable and it will still come out fighting for freedom.

The title is a cynical conceit because the Lifesavers are the rulers of a State that believes that children need protection from their parents - not just the ones obviously in danger but all children.

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Married couples can have babies but each conception must be registered and at twelve weeks the infants are taken into care and never seen again by the parents.

The story builds like a bad dream that you can't wake up from, with faint echoes of Orwell's 1984 wrapped into a new sort of 'Holocaust' as the Senator and his sidekick Mark set out their specious agenda and arguments for their rather less than brave new world.

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They talk about The Terror ten years before when neighbour was encouraged to rat on neighbour, 'bad' parents by the thousand were killed and their children seized. The Senator is one of those who survived the bloodlust and came to power.

But in every totalitarian regime there are always those who will fight for what is right. Cathy and Robert want to have a baby and keep it and they suggest this to the Senator as a one-off experiment. He agrees to put the idea to the Senate. But they turn it down as the thin edge of the parenting wedge.

However, Cathy is already pregnant and the couple, who live on a remote farm, decide to keep the child. The Senator complicates their lives by sending them a deaf and dumb lad of 14 to look after and we know it is only a question of time before the baby secret is blown.

Keith Bartlett is the sinister Senator with an Achilles heel. “How much can a human change,” he asks at one point. And we find out. Edward Hughes is his hard-line deputy and Rupert Simonian plays the boy.

Laurence Mitchell and Gina Isaac are the baby-hiders, brave in thought and deed but petrified deep down because they know their chances of beating the system are slim. It would be wrong to give away the ending of this thought-provoking piece but, after seeing it, mums and dads with young children might consider a strong sleeping draught before turning in.

David Henshall.

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