The Arbor

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A documentary charting the life of Bradford-born playright Andrea Dunbar, from the performance of her first play to her tragic early death.


Rita, Sue And Bob Too! writer Andrea Dunbar is the subject of this fascinatingly original docu-drama. A single mum living on a Bradford council estate, she penned her first play at 15; her next was made into the hit ’80s film. Yet she died, at 29, in the local pub. By focusing on the children left behind, this paints a desperate picture of wasted talent and a neglectful mum whose addictive tendencies were passed on to her daughter with devastating results. Artist/filmmaker Barnard is daring: actors lip-synch to recordings of Dunbar’s loved ones, while archive footage shows the real playwright. Inbetween, The Arbor is staged on her estate. It shouldn’t work, but it does: an artsy yet accessible insight into working-class life.

Moving, bold, unconventional and impeccably staged, The Arbor is a worthy tribute to a powerfully artistic voice.