New Play Lays Bare UK Welfare System

A new play which explores what it means to be poor in the UK today, comes to The Old Fire Station, Carlisle, on 12 October, as part of its tour of the North West, Cumbria and the Midlands.

A Laid Bare Theatre production, The Value of Nothing, explores the salient social issues of unemployment, the benefits system and UK welfare through multimedia and audience participation. The recent news reports that claim that welfare reforms have driven an increase in homelessness across the UK by 135% highlight the topicality and importance of these themes. The performances of the play commence shortly after the Conservative Party Conference 2017.

Written by Kim Wiltshire, The Value of Nothing is a thought-provoking new play about what it really means to be poor in the UK today. It is the story of a man who knew the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

Kim Wiltshire

Ex-community artist and self-proclaimed people’s champion Vince Fine (Ethan Holmes) launches his back to work initiative, ArtWorks. Vowing to end poverty, benefits, worklessness and even mental health issues, Vince and his loyal sidekick Michelle (Jess Cummings) take on all-comers to persuade them that ArtWorks really works.

The Value of Nothing explores these social issues through a lot of audience interaction, inviting the audience to play a range of minor characters in the play. The play’s script was informed by over 20 community group workshops with young men in Bolton, therefore the play contains moments of multimedia and flashes of real world grit. It is peppered with stories from young people about their real-life experience of living on benefits in the UK. Mixing real-life and fictionalised stories, The Value of Nothing is a play about how people on benefits are perceived in the 21st Century.

Kim Wiltshire, a writer and Programme Leader for Creative Writing at Edge Hill University, is passionate about using theatre to explore important social issues and to reach out to new audiences to use theatre as a public forum for debate.

Speaking about the issues of the play, Kim said: “What we value and who we value as a society has fascinated me for a long time. I do believe that theatre should ask questions of its audience, about where we see ourselves as human beings in our community and our society. If the play gets people talking and questioning each other about these issues, then I’ll consider it a success.”

The director of the play is the acclaimed Joyce Branagh, who won Best Fringe Performance in the Manchester Theatre Awards 2016 for her acting, writing and directing of Boomtown Gals.

The full casting for The Value of Nothing includes Ethan Holmes, Jess Cummings, Curtis Cole and Samantha Siddall.

Ethan added: “The idea that tax paying citizens don’t want to be supporting the lifestyles of those on benefits infuriates me. That’s why I auditioned to be a part of the play, to show the benefits that socially supportive services can provide to the poor.”

The Value of Nothing comes to The Old Fire Station in Carlisle on Thursday 12 October. For tickets visit

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