A CONTROVERSIAL double bill is set to hit Blackpool Grand Theatre next month (February) highlighting the grim reality of life on Britain's council estates.

Dysfunctional families, bad housing, drug addiction, crime and the harsh reality of living below the poverty line are all portrayed with the sharp, funny and disarmingly direct Rita, Sue and Bob Too and A State Affair.

And bringing both instruction and entertainment to his audience is the main goal for acclaimed director Max Stafford Clark.

By staging his double bill at the Grand in February he hopes to make people think while having a good time.

"On the whole theatre audiences are middle class," said Max "And it's only occasionally that working class life breaks through to their world with high profile murder cases such as the recent Damilola Taylor and of course Jamie Bulger.

"Every time I put something out I like to give a balance between entertainment and education."

Rita, Sue and Bob Too tells the tale of two feisty schoolgirls growing up on a Bradford council estate who start an affair with a married man.

Written in 1982 by Andrea Dunbar, who was only 18 at the time and sadly died aged 29, the play was originally commissioned and directed by Max and perfectly caught the mood of the early Thatcher years, becoming a marker of its time. "These plays are provocative and extremely relevant to what's happening today," added Max who also brought to Grand Theatre audiences the controversial Some Explicit Polaroids and Our Country's Good. "This is especially true with the second half of the bill -- A State Affair, written by Robin Soans last year -- which goes back into the council estates 18 years after the tale of Rita and Sue to see if things have changed."

In fact Max sent his actors from the Out Of Joint theatre company to Bradford's council estates to gather stories, not only from the people living there, but also from care workers, policemen, probation workers and health visitors.

"I think by doing this it gives the actors more of a responsibility and a commitment to Andrea's play.

"Of course, most people remember the film and how it was very upbeat with a happy ending. Well, the play which preceded the film is very different and Andrea had the perfect gift of observation and paints a vivid picture of what was happening at the time.

"I just hope the Grand Theatre isn't too big for us because we're used to more intimate venues!"

Rita, Sue and Bob Too and A State Affair run at Blackpool Grand Theatre from February 1-3 at 7.30pm and contain strong language.

Tickets at £12.50 and further details are available from the box office on 290190.