Chavs and chavettes arise, you have only your pride to lose. All you ever wanted to know about the social strata lovingly referred to in the media as ‘chavs', Pramface comes to the Croydon Warehouse as one of the hits of Edinburgh Fringe 2005 and a successful national tour.
It's a curious piece, at once a class satire with a twist of revenge for final flavouring. Written and performed by Lizzie Hopley, one is tempted to think of it first as a reclamation of the species made famous by Matt Lucas' Vicky Pollard only for it to turn into something rather more scary and much more interesting. That's fine, nothing like having the rug pulled from under your feet. Only problem is, Hopley leaves it a bit late to turn on the screws. The target of her venom, for a satire, is curiously diffuse and fuzzy, if pungently expressed.
Sitting amongst Sarah Chew's wonderful set (Chew is both director and designer here) - a mountain of discarded magazines and packets of Frosties – Hopley’s ‘chav', dressed in de rigeur trainer top and ‘Croydon facelift' (ponytail), comes on to us like a bat out of hell. A mouthy Scouser, she grumbles and gripes away about a downstairs neighbour whom, from time to time, she bombards with crashing music and a plummy-voiced character who she clearly hates and who later turns out to be a ‘celebrity' journalist, Holly Lord.
Obsessively caught up in a world of magazines, reality shows and fashion types, ‘cut, sort, paste and file' is the daily mantra of this scrap-album custodian whose knowledge of what makes an ugly face and a perfect face is down so pat it's like listening to a eugenics expert.
Now that really is scary, as is the crispness with which Hopley pins down the false empathy of Holly Lord, the journalist so desperate to gain an exclusive interview with the mother of Danny, a failed contestant in a reality show, Star Search, who has responded to his TV disappointment by disfiguring himself.
Danny also happens to be our chav's neighbour and, for her, ‘our hero'. Revenge, egged on by outrage at terms such as ‘pramface' (the dismissive name attached to a type of young girl seen as only good for wheeling a pram round an estate) follows speedily but in this instance, not entirely convincingly.
As a corrosive portrait of our celebrity and appearance-is-everything drenched age, Pramface has its moments, and Hopley is a talented performer. It remains, though, more character sketch than real investigation.
- Carole Woddis