Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

[Blank] – Play Review @ Domar Warehouse [Blank] – Play Review @ Domar Warehouse
[Blank] – Play Review @ Domar Warehouse

Although women are less than 5% the prison population, they account for over 19% of self-harm incidents, an indication of the traumatic impact of imprisonment on many and furthermore an estimated 17,240 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment every year.



Playwright Alice Birch latest poignant and impeccably written [Blank] at the Donmar Theatre in conjunction with Clean Break theatre takes the audience through a roller coaster of 30 unconnected emotionally charged situations to give us for a behind-the-scenes look at how these women end up entangled with the justice system. It also gives us an insight into the devastating effects it has on them and their families.



An ensemble of sixteen women weave in and out of scenes that are like pieces of a puzzle each building up a depressing inevitable conclusion ‘that ‘putting women in prison doesn’t protect the public …rather it protects those women from the harm they face when free’.


We see this vividly in one of the earlier scenes as a young desperate addict breaks into the family home and begins to rifle through her mother’s purse searching frantically for a few pounds for her next fix. Pitifully we see prostrate at her mother’s feet begging telling her that she will have no other alternative than to turn to prostitution. It’s a very unnerving and uncomfortable watch.


In another harrowing example, we witness a woman with a baby in tow heart-wrenching dead of night, desperate but futile attempt to gain entry into a refuge to escape the clutches of an abusive partner. The shelter is so full they have to turn her away, leaving her to own fate. This again was a deeply disturbing watch.


Rosie Elnile innovative multilevel boxy multifaceted set is put to great creative use by the cast. Sometimes it’s a prison cell, other times a foster home bedroom, a kitchen or waiting room. But always a relevant backdrop that added much to the urgency of the tales.



In another tragic-comic situation, we witness a presenter having to do several ‘takes’ for the camera, expressing varying degrees of sadness as she reports from the scene of where a man had recently butchered his female partner,  best summed up the central thrust of this simple yet ingenious production.


All the ladies either through monologues or through group interactions gave good, perceptive and sensitive performances. Each in their own way dispelling the popular representation of women in the justice system as being ‘bad girls’ or ‘babes behind bars’.


Special mention, however, must go Zainab Hassan as the desperate druggie daughter of a middle-class family, Zaris-Angel Hator as the world-weary foster child hell-bent on defending her ‘space’ and Shona Babayemi (a member of  Clean Break) as the angry dinner party guest, appalled at the total hypocrisy of a group of liberal middle-class women.


Maria Aberg’s direction is sharply observed and captivating for most parts. However, with so many scenes, she had a difficult job maintaining the momentum resulting in some having little purpose and not adding much to the narrative.



She, however, did an excellent overall job in keeping the audience enthralled throughout for the duration of this long two-hour interval less production.



One of Clean Break’s objectives is ‘to use theatre to ‘transform the lives of women in the criminal justice system as well as change the audience’s perception’ of these vulnerable women.’  They achieved the latter with resounding success for the most part though in a somewhat haphazard manner.


[Blank], Till 30 Nov, Donmar Warehouse, WC2H 9LX Details https://www.donmarwarehouse.com/


Special mention to Barclays Bank, Principal Sponsor and supporter of Donmar Dryden Street.

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