Esther Wilson, John Fay, Tony Green and Lizzie Nunnery
Traverse 1

It could be argued that the progenitor of Unprotected with its tragic tale of murdered Liverpudlian prostitutes is a most unexpected source.

As Tricia Kelly's Lucy says, "Margaret Thatcher put a lot of girls on the game, that woman did". Not a big fan of Lady T., this social worker also believes that "She'll burn in hell when she dies". Strong stuff but by the end of this powerful two hour verbatim drama, one can understand the sentiment.

This style of theatre requires conflict and tragedy to thrive and, perhaps pleasingly, there are not that many subjects around that lend themselves to the edited words of in this case 1,000 people. In fact, a few years back, Robin Soans' A State Affair covered very similar ground, in a setting just the other side the Pennines.

A small ensemble cast, held together by Leanne Best as Ali, puts together the words of prostitutes, their mothers and customers, police, politicians and support workers building a montage of the terror of working in this profession and the short life expectancy.

The key stories are those of Ali and the mothers of two murdered girls, played with great feeling by Joan Kempson and Pauline Daniels. There are a lot of common threads running through the histories of these girls, broken homes, teen pregnancy, drugs and a life servicing kerb crawlers with regular beatings the norm.

These victims are the very bottom of a pile in which they are treated like dirt and even sauna workers are regarded as upmarket. Even the legal authorities regard them as little more than animals, with penalties for men who beat them far more lenient that for abusers of "normal" women.

At the end too, just as it seems that little more is left to shock the audience, we hear the real voices of some of the murdered street girls.

The general media view of prostitution is of girls who have chosen to act outside the law and get what they deserve. Unprotected presents them as vulnerable human beings and shows how easily many deprived people with little hope of employment or happiness could go the same way.

The four writers, helped by director Nina Raine, have cut the interviews together well and after a slow start create a very compelling work that hits its target perfectly. It even manages a little humour though inevitably of the gallows variety.

This is not comfortable theatre but should be compulsory viewing for anyone who thinks that this problem can be brushed under the carpet in what is soon to be "The (European) Capital of Culture", or for that matter anywhere else.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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