by Deborah Bruce, Theresa Ikoko, Laura Lomas, Chino Odimba and Ursula Rani Sarma.
Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1D 3NE To 31 October 2015.
Runs: 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS : 020 7478 0100.
Review: Carole Woddis 21 October.
Multiple voices combine to give the big picture.
Clean Break, 36 years young and going strong; the company formed by two women ex-prisoners in 1979 keeps going from strength to strength though this production is only the tip of the iceberg. Like so many theatre companies these days, a vital educational programme runs alongside its public work.
Joanne, under new artistic director Róisín McBrinn, takes their work to a new level. If Vivienne Franzmann’s Pests last year was the most harrowing of experiences with its portrait of addiction, Joanne, written by five different writers, is a cool yet devastating monologuic tour de force that carries a cohesive power rare when more than one writer is involved.
Many projects founder under laudable attempt to incorporate many writing voices. Not here; Joanne gives us a multi-perspective view on a young woman who doesn’t make it when she comes out of prison, and the women working in public services she encounters.
We never actually meet Joanne. Instead, she is seen through the eyes of frontline staff – the probation worker being made redundant, the police-woman whose brush with Joanne summons up a ghostly memory of her part in school bullying that led to their victim’s suicide; the Nigerian working at the hostel where Joanne is sent and runs amok after a treasured plastic watch is stolen; the NHS A&E receptionist, working nights for the past 30 years, drowning in the humanity she has had to deal with; and the teacher who discovers a horrible truth about Joanne but is cannot save her.
All these women have their own stories to interweave with their meetings with Joanne at moments when her descent might have been stopped.
It’s a tragic tale for our times, a catalogue of careless blunders (the doctor who gives Joanne the wrong meds when she comes out) but also often good intentions, directed with elegance by McBrinn and performed with humour and charisma by Tanya Moodie.
Society and the media are quick to condemn when things go wrong. Joanne shows us the often invisible human cost in a system increasingly at odds with its role of protecting and supporting the most vulnerable.
Stella/Grace/Kathleen/Alice/Becky: Tanya Moodie.
Director: Róisín McBrinn.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Emma Chapman.
Sound: Becky Smith.
Assistant director: Laura Asare.
First performed at Latitude Festival 19 July 2015.
First performance at Soho Theatre, 13 October 2015.