The show follows these four women as they create a narrative for their own female prison TV series to pitch to producers. It’s a celebratory piece, bouncing from laugh-out-loud gags to tender, honest insights into what prison life has been like for these charismatic women. With audience participation throughout, the staging is intentionally messy. The form is a smorgasbord of theatrical devices, utilising card games, costume changes, focus groups sessions, face to camera footage and ‘behind the scenes’ featurettes.
Inside Bitch is on its way to constructing a concrete argument on how women with lived prison experience are intellectually and emotionally complex human beings, and need to be represented as such in film and TV, instead of the overtly sexual, rough and tumble caricatures we see time and again in shows like Netflix’s Orange is the Black and ITV’s Bad Girls.
However, the direction is somewhat unfocussed from Stacey Gregg (playwright) and Deborah Pearson (live artist). At times the scenes feel like recreations of theatre games that have been used to generate material in the rehearsal room and are now being placed on stage without enough purpose or dramatic drive.
The poignant moments of Inside Bitch are the verbatim monologues, when the performers speak plainly on their own prison sentences, and how it has affected their relationships. In an enclosed recording booth, performer Jennifer Joseph heartbreakingly recounts the moment when she was stopped at the airport for importation, while surrounded by her three children; and how her ten-year-old son was (quite understandably) unable to deal socially with her imprisonment.
The show is a co-production from the Royal Court and Clean Break, a women’s theatre company established by two female prisoners in 1979. For 40 years Clean Break have created pioneering theatrical performances to transform the lives of women with criminal justice experience and challenge public preconceptions of women in vulnerable circumstances.
The performers drive the show forward with verve and genuine charm, but more work needs to be done on the dramatic structure of Inside Bitch to fully impact the audience with its arresting argument on misrepresentation.
|What||Inside Bitch, Royal Court Theatre review|
|Where||Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Sloane Square (underground)|
27 Feb 19 – 23 Mar 19, Evening performances Monday-Saturday, 3pm matinees Thursdays & Saturdays
|Price||£12-£49, £15 under 26s (Mondays all seats £12 available from 9am online on the day of performance)|
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|