Review: I, Daniel Blake (Northern Stage)

'I, Daniel Blake' returns in the form of a stage adaptation with a moving and all too accurate portrayal of life in poverty

Carly Horne
1st June 2023
David Nellist and Micky Cochrane in 'I, Daniel Blake' - Image Credit: Pamela Raith Photography
In the stage adaptation of Ken Loach's film, 59 year-old Daniel Blake struggles to navigate the welfare system following a major heart attack. Adapted for stage by Dave Johns, comes a moving and relevant portrayal of life in poverty - and it will make you angry.

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, there seems no more an apt time for the story's revival. With many people struggling to make ends meet and relying on food banks to make it through the week - I, Daniel Blake reflects some of the struggles many people are facing today.

What becomes clear throughout the production is that many of the story's characters are decent people who aren't being given the help that they need.

Bryony Corrigan as Katie - Image Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Mother and daughter, Katie (Bryony Corrigan) and Daisy (Jodie Wild), find themselves unable to turn the heating on when an honest mistake leaves them with a sanction. While acknowledging they at least have each other, and the relationship does provide some of the production's lighter moments, Katie finds herself forced to turn to desperate measures to provide for her daughter.

For Daniel, he finds himself forced to look for work when his health is still suffering and dehumanised by a system he believes is supposed to help him. His spirit seldom waivers, befriending Katie and Daisy and helping where he can. Nothing he needs feels especially unreasonable, but his treatment throughout the production and subsequent failures of the system leads to devastating consequences.

Between the moments of horrific reality (and some moments of warmth) were quotes displayed reflecting the detachment between politicians and ordinary people. From Lee Anderson's attribution of food poverty to a lack of cooking skills, to David Cameron's 'big society' failure - it's difficult not to shake one's head at the audacity of these people against the backdrop of parents going without food so their children don't have to.

The cast of 'I, Daniel Blake' at Northern Stage - Image Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Contrary to what Damian Green once said, I, Daniel Blake is not a work of fiction, this is real life for many people. And even for audience members, it might be more palatable to believe Johns' adaptation of the production is exaggerated.

However, I, Daniel Blake is a very poignant call to action and a production I recommend everyone see, if they can.

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