(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/1.)

Understated approach to working with horrific imagery … Unscorched at Finborough. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

How do human beings cope with being exposed, professionally, to a barrage of violent or abusive images? That is the question behind Luke Owen's disturbing 75-minute piece, winner of this year's Papatango New Writing prize. The issue was raised before, in Anthony Neilson's The Censor, but the virtue of Owen's play is that it unsettles us without in-yer-face shock tactics.

The focus is on Tom, a new recruit to an organisation that analyses digital images, supplied by the police and the public, supposedly containing evidence of child abuse. Tom's line manager tells him of all the things done to alleviate the pressure of the job, from counselling to awaydays, while a senior colleague, Nidge, adopts a tone of jaunty cheeriness and recommends periodically switching off to watch Jerry Springer or Britain's Got Talent.


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