Recently I brought a load of books to keep me occupied over the Christmas period. One of them was this beauty of a book by Adelle Stripe. Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile tells the story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Andrea Dunbar grew up in extreme poverty on the Buttershaw Estate an estate in Bradford, Yorkshire. The book is interesting because it is a fictional story based on Andrea’s life events. I had to admit after reading the book I googled to find out more information as it wasn’t clear to me if Andrea had been a real writer or not. Looking back at the book for writing this review it does say that it is a work of fiction and ‘an alternative version of historic events’.
The story is gritty, Andrea had gone through some real hardship, falling pregnant young and then miscarrying, living with an abusive partner and then moving to a safe house, her unhealthy relationship with alcohol and poverty. her playwriting comes in when her teacher at school picks up the fact that she has a talent for writing. This leads to her writing The Arbor which was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1980. Rita, Sue and Bob too is the play which is she is well known for, debuted in 1982 tells the story of two women who have an affair with a married man. Her final play Shirley is about Shirley and her family and friends in an working class estate in Bradford in the 1980’s.
The book keeps you gripped throughout, at times the book makes you want to throttle Andrea as it seems that she is passing over opportunities at almost an act of self-sabotage.
I hadn’t heard of Andrea Dunbar before the book and I hadn’t heard of her screenplays before (it was in the 1980’s so before my time!) but I certainly want to read them. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman who managed to achieve her dream against every worse scenario possible.