by Vivienne Franzmann.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 3 May.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat & Thu from 24 April 3pm.
Captioned 29 April.
Runs: 1hr 40min No interval.
then Tour to 14 June 2014.
TICKETS 020 7565 5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 5 April 5.
The tough life of sisters remorselessly exposed.
Not since Sarah Kane’s Blasted can I remember a play as harrowing to watch as Pests. The Royal Court have never shied away from exposing uncomfortable truths. Nor indeed have Clean Break, the 35 year old company set up by female ex-prisoners to give voice to their experiences and enable fresh starts.
Put them together with award-winning playwright Vivienne Franzmann (Mogadishu, The Witness), Manchester’s Royal Exchange from whom she was awarded her first playwriting prize, the Bruntwood, and two remarkable actors, Ellie Kendrick and Sinéad Matthews and you have something explosive.
Franzmann has been involved with Clean Break for three years, as writer in residence and teacher. Before that, she taught in London secondary schools. Can it be a coincidence that Pests is all about education – or lack of it – and about language – or lack of it? Or that Franzmann’s two protagonists, Pink and Rolly, like so many women inside, have literacy and mental health problems?
Rolly and Pink are sisters. Rolly, heavily pregnant has just come out of prison. What ensues in Joanna Scotcher’s immersive, mattress-strewn set and Lucy Morrison’s shattering, disturbing production is an encounter with lives destroyed by the past, by drug addiction and crucially, by a loving but desperately damaging co-dependency.
It takes some stomach to watch the strung-out Pink, besieged by hallucinatory demons in the shape of digitalised lava flows and speaking in an extraordinary invented language as she entangles the illiterate Rolly in order to keep her locked into her world.
As events in their early childhood become apparent, so a vicious cycle of addiction, violence and prostitution is revealed, as is the scoring – in the score Pink needs to settle with Rolly from childhood and in their colluding heroin addiction.
At the heart of Pests is compassion, but I can’t remember anything so brutally poetic since Kane nor so frank in its depiction of drug addiction.
Theatre at its most raw but brilliant and, I wouldn’t be surprised, award-winning.
Rolly: Ellie Kendrick
Pink: Sinéad Matthews
Director: Lucy Morrison.
Designer: Joanna Scotcher.
Lighting: Fabiana Piccioli.
Sound: Emma Laxton.
Video: Kim Beveridge.
World premiere of Pests 12 March 2014 at Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester.
Pests was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Sloane Square, London on 27 March 2014.
Pests is part of the Royal Court’s Jerwood New Playwrights programme, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
22-24 May 8pm Traverse Theatre (Traverse 2) Edinburgh 0131 228 1404 www.traverse.co.uk
28-31 May 7.45pm Liverpool Playhouse (Studio) 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
3-7 June 7.45pm Plymouth Theatre Royal (Drum) 01752 267222 www.theatreroyal.com
11-14 June 8pm Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The Door) 0121 236 4455 www.birmingham-rep.co.uk