by Amanda Whittington.
Tour to 15 March 2914.
Review: Carole Woddis 20 February at St James Studio Theatre.,
Beautifully contrived. Beautifully executed.
Amanda Whittington has a winning way with plays about women in oppressed situations, undaunted and rising above their circumstances.
Only 70 minutes long, Whittington crams in a multitude of detail in a solo show about a Nottingham nurse strapped for cash, who turns sex worker.
Solo shows can sometimes seem endless, a torrent of interminable, uninterrupted words. But Amateur Girl, crisply directed by Kate Chapman and starring Lucy Speed as Julie, the eponymous `amateur girl’, is peopled by a cast of unseen but ever-present characters: Matron, security guards, `punters’ and not least Gary, married and persuasive who bit by seductive bit tempts Julie into a world of fun, excitement and not least, money.
Originally conceived as a piece for BBC Woman’s Hour, focusing on the minimum wage, the triumph of Whittington’s expanded version is Speed’s gorgeous embodiment of Julie – a creation apparently based on real-life experiences.
Speed brings Whittington’s Julie wonderfully to life, a portrayal rich in nuance and humour as a down-to-earth, struggling working-class woman whose boundless compassion for the elderly and dying patients is matched by a happy-go-lucky naivety whose appetite for `a bit of a laugh’ leads her into dangerous ways.
Almost without realising it, Gary, first with picture snaps, then video porn, leads her down the slippery path. By the end, Julie has dumped Gary when it has led to violence but has embarked on her own phone-dating/sex business. “Better than having to go out to work,” she muses as she sits in her dressing gown, sipping tea.
Amateur Girl quietly and brilliantly humanises an area of life that, though often the subject of plays, TV series and films, is expressed here with rare warmth and yet a sharp appreciation of the reasons why ordinary women get caught up in such an industry.
Whittington’s script is a peach, though adding a possible child-abuse background for Julie is almost too predictably familiar. But it adds weight to the underlying motive for Julie’s course of action – primarily financial with bills constantly hanging over her head, but also as a buttress against low self esteem.
Julie: Lucy Speed.
Voice of Matron: Tanya Myers.
Voice of Gary: Darren Daly.
Director: Kate Chapman.
Designer: Simon Kenny.
Set and Costume Designer/Costume: Eleanor Field.
Lighting: Alexandra Stafford.
Sound: Adam P McCready.
First performed as a 15 min episode as part of BBC Radio 4’s Woman Hour drama, Minimum Wages 2, broadcast on 30 January 2007.
Stage version commissioned and produced by Hull Truck Theatre and first performed 11 June 2009.