In two cycles of three half-hour plays each, the Clean Break company, which works with women affected by, and working in, prisons, has occupied the Soho from top to bottom: two plays in the upper floor studio, two in the cellar, and two on the stage proper.
Although Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s That Almost Unnameable Lust achieves a poetic density in the suddenly super-charged plight of two prisoners unable to respond to the challenge of articulating experience, the plays are quite bitty and small-scale.
This does not detract from their worthiness, nor the novelty value of chasing a bunch of fine actors through some harrowing situations: mothers and daughters divided, gangs on the warpath, drugs and despair, policewomen at odds with each other in a macho culture, a tug of love in a retrospective suicide mystery.
And Rebecca Prichard’s Dream Pill buttonholes us uncompromisingly with the fate of two under-age girls – nine and ten, for pity’s sake - in the sex-slave scandal. This piece is devastatingly performed by Danielle Vitalis and Samantha Pearl, who also feature in Sam Holcroft’s Dancing Bears a demotically-rich and football-wise street brawl.
Other honours go to the extraordinary, tragically moon-faced Janet Henfrey, looking like a tattered old fairy off the Christmas tree as a granny all dressed up to watch Strictly Come Dancing in Winsome Pinnock’ s Taken (strong work, too, from Beatie Edney as her daughter in recovery); Rebecca Scroggs and Emma Noakes as antagonistic officers in E V Crowe’s pleasingly quirky Doris Day; and delightful little Isabelle Mason in Chloë Moss’ Fatal Light.
The three directors are Caroline Steinbeis, Lucy Morrison and Tessa Walker, and a faint feeling of po-faced, right-on endeavour about their efforts will surely be offset by some major work from this solidarity of purpose in the future.