Magazine article The Spectator

'Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile', by Adelle Stripe - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile', by Adelle Stripe - Review

Article excerpt

In her debut novel, Adelle Stripe recounts the brief, defiant life of the playwright Andrea Dunbar. Dunbar was raised on the Buttershaw council estate in Bradford, one of eight siblings. Her first play, The Arbor, which premiered at the Royal Court in London when she was just 18, originated as a CSE English assignment. She was, according to one tabloid newspaper at the time, 'a genius straight from the slums'. Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1982) was also a hit at the Royal Court and was subsequently filmed by the director Alan Clarke. Dunbar wrote one more play, Shirley, and died of a brain haemorrhage in 1990. She was 29.

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile (its title lifted verbatim from that same patronising profile) restores Dunbar to the place and time that made her -- the north of England of the 1970s and 1980s:

The ground up here is always sodden, and it rains almost every day. Can't wear anything nice. It feels like we're on the edge of everything. Miles to Bradford centre. Miles to Halifax. And we're stuck up here with not much to do. Holme Wood is another big estate. Sometimes I wished I lived there instead.

Dunbar had more talent than most and, at first, good fortune too. …

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