Reviews Edinburgh Published 23 August 2011

Dream Pill

Underbelly ⋄ 4th - 28th August 2011

Two little girls.

Rosanna Hall

Childhood things. Photo: Sheila Burnett

In a dark and claustrophobic cellar echoing with the faint clatters and clangs from the bar upstairs, two nine year old Nigerian girls, Tunde and Bola, discuss their day to day existence as the victims of sex trafficking.

Rebecca Pritchard’s short play, originally staged in London as part of Clean Break’s Charged season, exposes the horrendous abuse to which such children are subject, while emphasising the childhood the girls have been denied.  The performers,  Danielle Vitalis and Samantha Pearl, interact with the audience, in a way that is playful but also desperate, plaintive. This interaction is incredibly well-handled, by both the cast members and the director, Tessa Walker; the girls are endearing and wide-eyed , but the stories they tell make the audience increasingly uncomfortable, as they sugar inappropriate situations with childlike language – when men bleed, we are told, it is ‘white and sticky’.

Soon the truth of their situation emerges as the girls become increasingly terrified about the arrival of a sinister ‘boss man’. Tessa Walker’s production (originally staged in the basement bar of Soho Theatre) is simply designed, the set bare, the lighting sparse;  the props used, the girls’ few possesions – a shoe, some rough and basic mats, a pillow – all become items that the girls not only treasure, but also consider to have  magical qualities.

What stops the piece from being unrelenting is the performers’ delivery; their English is accented and they speak with childlike haste, with sporadic bursts of energy. This leads to some of what they try to tell the audience being lost; we are obliged to piece together the events that  have lead to their imprisonment through the details we pick up along the way: a grandmother, an air hostess, their arrival in London.

Though short, Pritchard’s play is more moving and thought-provoking than many plays three times its length. By giving a voice to the unknown masses of vulnerable children like Tunde and Bola, Clean Break have produced an urgent and intelligent piece of theatre that engages with a topical issue without hectoring its audience. Though sometimes it’s a tough piece of drama, often hard to watch, it’s utterly compelling and impossible to look away from.

The climax of the piece provides a startling reiteration of what has happened to these girls and what is going to continue happening to them. As Tunde, in her oversized dress and messy lipstick, walks towards the door, the taps of her sparkly high-heeled shoes map it out,  the brutal reality behind their escapist fantasies.

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Rosanna Hall is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Dream Pill Show Info


Produced by Clean Break

Directed by Tessa Walker

Written by Rebecca Pritchard

Cast includes Danielle Vitalis, Samantha Pearl

Link http://www.cleanbreak.org.uk/

Running Time 30 mins

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