Author: Julia Pascal

Grown up boys

David Spencer’s new play, Space. is a poignant domestic drama set in a Halifax housing estate. Using an almost televisual linear narrative Spencer charts the relationship between Dean, a baker, and Pam, an unmarried mother and barmaid.

Through short scenes the playwright builds up the tensions of their affair and, superficially the play works well as an exploration of violence, emotional disappointment and the limitations of conventional married love.

But on a deeper level Spencer hints at the problems men have in reaching maturity and, as such, this is a brave work delying into a territory which is rarely explored by male playwights. Although Dean wants to marry Pam and legitimise their new baby, the only person he can really connect with is Pam’s son Kenny. Spencer shows young man and young boy jointly sharing the joys of physics and astronomy. Space is full of longing for the brightness of a child’s imagination and here Spencer hints that 19th century Romanticism is still vibrating from the hills surrounding the northern housing estate.

Juxtaposed against this world of poetic imagination is the violence expected from “real men”. Pam’s previous lover Mike is symbolic of this English machismo and, Spencer suggests, it is a world with which women have learnt to collude. He also makes it clear that in late 20th century Britain, imagination is a forbidden territory for women. If men want romantic love and babies, it is still women like Pam who have to take responsability.

There is an exciting mixture of poetry and harsh realism thoughout the writing and Spencer implies that we all carry the burden of our childhood histories into the sacred area of adult relationsships.

Pam expects every man to brutalise her as her father and lover did. Dean wants the comfort of a women who is more mother than equal partner.

There are strong performances from Paul Wyett as Dean and Elizabeth Rider as Pam, with equally good work from Douglas Seymour and Maggie Jones.