The Enchanted, Bunker Theatre

York and Arden are two men on America’s death row waiting to die. An investigator, known to the prisoners as The Lady, works night and day to save their lives. The similarly unnamed chaplain does the same to save their souls. As the two piece together the pasts of the men about to meet their deaths, a physical theatre ensemble and extracts from Rene Denfeld’s poetic novel The Enchanted creates a dreamlike, romanticised view of poverty-stricken rural America and the killers it breeds.

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The Monkey, Theatre 503

The Monkey - Theatre 503, George Whitehead and Morgan Watkins, photos by Simon Annand 2

Tel and Dal are two Sarf London geezas who grew up together on a Bermondsey estate. Dapper and ambitious Tel has moved up in the criminal underworld, away from Dal’s small-scale thieving so they don’t see each other much. Dal’s less aspirational, still robbing people on the street with his mate Becks. When they’re not out working, Dal and Becks get their drugs from young dealer Al, who lives upstairs. Life’s ticking along as normal until Tel shows up unannounced looking for the money he leant to Al a month ago. Tel’s volatile temperament, sharp intelligence and vanity mean the other three are no match for the increasing danger.

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Daddy’s Girl, VAULT Festival

by guest critic Michael Davis

Prison dramas are practically a genre in their own right on television and the silver screen, but for the stage they are not so common (apart from in a historical context). Daddy’s Girl, which is directed by Alice Malin, focuses on Terry (Mark Wingett) –  in jail for life for armed robbery – and his adult daughter Eliza (Georgia Brown).

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The Collector, Greenwich Theatre

by guest critic Maeve Ryan

When the British army arrived in Northern Ireland, beleaguered Catholics came onto the streets offering them tea, biscuits and cake. How long did it take for the story to change to the one that we know today? In The Collector, Naseer joyfully swaps music CDs with the American soldiers who arrive into Iraq in 2003 because he hopes for democracy and change. He learnt his English by listening to American rap music and soon he becomes a valuable translator for the soldiers. The Collector documents the slow brutalization of the occupiers and the occupied through choices they make; choices that, in Henry Naylor’s play, feel inevitable.


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Joanne, Soho Theatre

Joanne2We never meet Joanne. We do however, meet four women who encounter her at different points over a crucial 24-hour period of her life, and one that remembers her as a child. We learn that she cuts a tall, striking figure, makes immediate impact on those she meets and she doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere the world. Joanne is homeless and has just been released from prison. Production company Clean Break, founded by 2 female prisoners in 1979 and still producing, recognizes the importance of sharing stories from vulnerable women prone to falling through society’s cracks. Joanne, written by five female playwrights, has some wonderful writing and is skillfully performed in an intimate space but the brevity of the monologues and talking around Joanne distances rather than fully engages.

Tanya Moodie first plays a key worker, then easily slips into a police officer, an NHS receptionist, a hostel cleaner and a teacher. All were moved by Joanne’s plight and wanted to help her, innately sensing her need for support. These women related to something within Joanne, humanizing her and the thousands of other female prisoners like her. Moodie captures the genuine care these women feel, as well as their conflict – police officer Grace isn’t supposed to get attached to her cases, but alludes to her own struggle with finding a place in the world for her and her daughter. I am particularly touched by Kathleen, on the front line of an NHS hospital for 28 years. She makes some pointed critiques of government legislation’s effects on her workplace and its effects on those most needing care. These stories are much more engrossing than Joanne’s because they’re in front of us, as Joanne herself is a shadowy puzzle that we slowly and satisfyingly piece together.

Through written by five different writers, the monologues seamlessly connect but remain stylistically distinct. Told in the past tense through the sharing of memories, they are fine examples of storytelling that Moodie makes active and varied rather than nostalgic. She owns the distinct characterization of these women, skillfully masking Róisín McBrinn’s direction. Colour changing light-up columns and panels add visual variation, but don’t contribute towards meaning or location. Their presence is unimposing, but unnecessary. The otherwise minimal, black set draws all attention onto Moodie, as it should in this production. Audience focus is on Joanne’s attempted helpers and their capacity to empathise; they are more solid and demanding of immediate attention than the silhouetted subject of their stories who leaves nothing but a memory.

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