Tough times: in Baby/Lon
Hard hitting: Baby/Lon. Photograph: George Ramsay

The Big House brings another gut wrenching production to Hackney Downs Studios with Baby/Lon, based on the lives of the young cast who have all recently left care.

In the Big House’s favoured promenade delivery, the visceral story is played out in an emotional dance which tears at your senses, while a barrage of visual and audio projection create an unsettling backdrop.

The show expertly tackles a myriad of issues affecting some children brought up by the government without their families, spanning from gang affiliation and teenage sex to mental health and homelessness.

In a world of entwined tragedies where almost everyone seems stuck in a hopeless cycle, the main character, Madeline, feels abandoned in life and paranoia is enveloping her.

Constant analysis and labels assigned by social workers and mental health professionals ricochet through her dreams and enhance her self-hate in an echoing cacophony of judgement.

And with a lack of role models and a deep seated mistrust of social services, danger is her destination.

Floating between groups with her desperate need for love translating into promiscuity, she claws for attention from empty connections and is left pregnant.

With a desire to protect her baby conflicting with past failings and parallels of rejection, Madeline isolates herself more and more.

And although some of the strongest characters eventually succumb to their assumed predestinations, Madeline’s one true friend, the enduring voice of reason, Estelle, offers an alternative ending.

The tense, violent finale at the rear of the theatre opens into the real world, heightening the fact that these heart breaking situations have actually happened to the actors and this is not just about entertainment.

Echoing the Big House’s success in helping the most marginalised young people, one actress, Zoe Finlay, 18, says: “This is my first big showcase performance and it has been a life changing experience. There are pieces in the show which are close to home and some nights I’ve just sat behind the stage and cried. But it is a good way to deal with things – now we have a voice and people are listening.”

Baby/Lon is at Hackney Downs Studios, 17 Amhurst Road, E8 2BT until 3 May.

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