Plays by Rebecca Prichard, Chloe Moss and Winsome Pinnock
Review by Iain James Finlayson
Charged 1 presents a trio of plays written, performed and produced by an all female team. Each play explores the ways in which women's lives are affected by the criminal justice system. Clean Break is a theatre company committed to using the medium to instigate personal and political change for women in this situation. Charged 2 was reviewed separately by Philip Fisher.
Dream Pill by Rebecca Prichard
Dream Pill is the most confronting of the three plays presented as part of Charged 1. It takes the form of a conversation between two Nigerian girls Bola (Danielle Vitalis) and Tunde (Samantha Pearl) and the audience. Bola and Tunde are the victims of child sex trafficking and are being held captive in a basement by a man they call Dedeh. Throughout the play the children constantly refer to their fear of the spiritual world, a fear which helps keep them imprisoned as they believe that Dedeh and the "dream pills" he gives them keeps them safe from the spirits and demons.
Despite the deeply disturbing material writer Rebecca Prichard keeps the play accessible through her clever use of humour. There is no doubt that Prichard has done her research into Nigerian child trafficking, but some of the details she has embedded in her writing will not be understood by the majority of audience members. At one point Bola and Tunde re-enact the ceremony their traffickers subject them to before leaving Nigeria. Through this ceremony their captors use Nigerian spiritual beliefs to frighten the children and prevent them from attempting to escape or talk out about their ordeal. This is a genuine practice that has made it difficult for British police to gather evidence or make prosecutions against Nigerian traffickers.
Fatal Light by Chloe Moss
The first scene of Fatal Light opens with a policewoman (Emma Noakes) awkwardly informing Maggie (Ashley McGuire) that her daughter Janine (Rebecca Scroggs) had died in prison. This leaves Maggie with sole responsibility for the care of her granddaughter Aine (Isabella Mason). From here the play works backwards exposing the circumstances, including Janine's battle with mental illness, that have led to this point. It sends a clear message that Janine's interaction with the authorities did more to create this tragedy than prevent it. But like all the plays in Charged 1 it does not preach, instead presenting an individual's story and allowing the audience to draw its own conclusions.
McGuire steals the show with her hilarious yet touching portrayal of Maggie, the slightly hapless mother and granny. The final scene in which she attempts to make peace with her daughter using an inspirational message copied off a herbal tea packet, is the highlight of the piece. It adds depth and complexity to Chloe Moss' writing and leaves the audience wanting more.
Taken by Winsome Pinnock
Taken explores the consequences of generational drug dependence when Della (Beatie Edney) is unexpectedly reunited with her daughter Nola (Rebecca Oldfield), whom she gave up for adoption twenty years earlier. Again writer Winsome Pinnock uses humour as a tool to help the audience relate to characters whose life experiences may be quite different to their own. Middle-aged Della has just moved back to care for her mother Nana Nola (Janet Henfrey) following stints in prison and rehab. It becomes obvious that the responsibility that Della has in caring for Nana Nola is helping her stay clean, which the play contrasts against Della's past inability to do the same for her daughter.
Nola is understandably deeply hurt by her mother's decision to give her up for adoption. But when Della discovers the baby Nola has with her is simply a rolled up blanket intriguing questions are raised for the audience. Is Nola trying to scam her own mother to pay for her next fix? Or is Nola's return simply a figment of Della's imagination?