By Esther Freud.
Jermyn Street Theatre, 1B Jermyn Street, London to 23 June 2018.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2835.
Review: William Russell I June.
Powerful play about prison reform
Lady Anne Tree- was one of those aristocratic English ladies for whom the word indomitable was coined and she is created, if not to the life, because she was not all that well known a public figure, at least brought to life in a splendid performance by Sinead Cusack in this first play by Esther Freud.
A daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, she took up prison visiting at the age of 14 and became convinced inmates, men or women needed something to occupy their time. The result was she founded a charity called Fine Cell Work which teaches needlework and succeeded in spite of the usual Home Office shilly shallying and disinterested prison governors.
Peculiar coloured hair, even more peculiar red stockings, striding briskly about the place and treating her pupils with affection Cusack is a delight – and she gets terrific support from the actors playing the obviously token inmates.
Freud introduces us to five men who turn up for the sewing classes for all sorts of reasons who stay to learn something and a token warder in charge of them. If there is one decision that seems slightly odd it is that the actor playing the officer is Scottish and this brings Porridge instantly to mind which is slightly illusion shattering – it takes you to another world in a sense.
Director Gaby Dellal has kept what is essentially an episodic tale moving along briskly – there really is not much of a plot – and manages to conjure up a confined and brutal world to considerable effect. There is a stunning performance of uncontained anger from Frankie Wilson as Tommy, in on remand and seeing no way out, who has to share a cell with Lukasz, played by Michael Nardone, in for a 13 year stretch and self claimed strongest man in the place. Nardone is equally impressive, but no point in naming names. Freud, herself a prison visitor, makes the case for providing prisoners with things to occupy the time and which can earn money with an unusual but continually fascinating and entertaining play.
Lady Anne Tree: Sinead Cusack.
Busby: Martin Docherty.
Denise: Victoria Elizabeth.
Len: Trevor Laird.
Lukasz: Michael Nardone.
Keith: Ewan Stewart.
Tommy: Frankie Wilson.
Director: Gaby Dellal.
Designer: Liz Cooke.
Lighting Designer: Will Reynolds.
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.
Movement Director: Cydney Uffindell-Phillips.
Musical Supervisor: Stephen Hiscock.
Fight Director: Philip d’Orleans.
Production Photographer: Robert Workman.