Working-Class Heroine

Andrea Dunbar wasn’t a social critic so much as a painfully aware observer of her environment. She spent her entire short life in a housing project — also the setting of her breakthrough plays — in Bradford, an industrial city in the north of England where sex, drink, and drugs provided the only succor. The Arbor, written when she was 15 and produced four years later at the Royal Court Theatre in London, mirrored her experience as a pregnant teenager with an abusive boyfriend. Rita, Sue, and Bob Too! was an equally blunt but much funnier work about an affair between two teenage girls and a middle-aged man. Dunbar died in 1990, a few months shy of her 30th birthday, and her life and work are recalled and re-created (via actors lip-synching to tape-recorded interviews) in Clio Barnard’s remarkable new, genre-blurring film, The Arbor. In conjunction with that, we’re treated to a revival of the late, great Alan Clarke’s ribald, gritty, and controversial 1986 screen adaptation of Rita, Sue, and Bob Too! Dunbar’s caustic view of British life on the outs evokes the bad old days of Margaret Thatcher and, unexpectedly, points toward a possible American future under the “New Austerity.”
Sat., Aug. 20; Mon., Aug. 22; Wed., Aug. 24, 2011

 
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