In 2015 it was reported that 305 people a year took their lives on the railways – approximately one every 31 Hours – hence the title of Kieran Knowles’ new play 31 Hours. The majority of these suicides being committed by males, aged between 30 and 55, but this is never rammed down the audience’s throat, writes Susan Hallissey…
Our introduction to this world is through the eyes of four rail workers John (Abdul Salis) Ste (James Wallwork) Neil (Salavatore D’Aquilla) and Doug (Jack Sunderland). The Clean Up Team. With a deafening train sounds and a set filled with rubble and stones adding to the crunching effect of life, each character moves effortlessly into several others.
An elderly couple played beautifully by Abdul Salis and Jack Sutherland being one of them. We learn facts along the way: about the team and the time given for a clean up; about the name of the parts of the platform, but most despairingly about the types of jumps attempted and how so often there is no sign in that this event might take place.
We also get a glimpse, through a couple of fleeting characters of the passenger’s annoyance, the inconvenience of death, along with the indignity of having no internet service! As ‘Neil’ gives a powerful speech on ‘Man Up’ to a hushed audience I thought of my sons and grandsons, and the pressure they face being male. As ‘Neil’ says, ‘What does “Man Up” even mean?’
However, this wasn’t just a play about male ‘jumpers’, it really covered more than the blurb suggested – The crux being communication, or lack of it. Talking about feelings, pressure and life is as important for the workers in this job as the suicides. As we drew to the end of the play I was taken to a startling conclusion…
With more humour than expected and in a great warm and friendly venue, my only gripe was the length. At ninety minutes long I pondered as to maybe some editing here and there – the more I reflected on this I began to wonder about my own inability to listen – to actually hear. Surely the subject matter deserves an hour and a half of anyone’s time? Make your own mind up!
31 Hours is on at The Bunker, 53a Southwark Street, SE1 1RU until 28 October.
Times: Tuesday -Saturday at 7.30 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3.00pm.
Admission: £19.50, £15 concs.
Phone: 020 7403 1139