Seen at the Turbine Theatre.
The cast really have fun in this production and that infects the audience. There is a lot to like about the writing and performances but there are elements which could be strengthened.
Opening with the musicians, Emmy Stonelake and Lydia Higman busking in a preshow, the tone is set. We move into the show. In 1795. Liberty Whitley, a maidservant who is sentenced to hang for murder, ‘pleads the belly’ to gain a reprieve. As she isn’t pregnant, this virgin maid, banged up in the women’s ward of Newgate Prison, has to get herself ‘with child’. And much comedy is made of her challenge.
There are some great comedy moments with provocative political writing: particularly Liberty’s method of getting moved to the insane ward. Original and famous quotes of music flavour the show throughout.
I would like more consistency in the writing – the poet, mollyhouse boy and Lady D could all be expanded. This could easily become a full-length show.
Director Rachel Lemon needs to take a firmer hand, deciding on and maintaining a style. We know the way the story will go, but it takes an age to get Liberty into prison. Some scenes move incredibly slowly and it would benefit from some editing – always a challenge when the writers are key performers in the show.
Julia Grogan, as Liberty, pushes the story along and wins our sympathy effectively. I want to know more about Fanta Barrie’s poet, she is an intrigue and is powerfully driven. Michael Bijok acquits himself well in the various male parts – his boy from the mollyhouse deserves more backstory. Melissa Knighton as lawyer and cellmate show great contrast and Emmy Stonelake steals the show as musician and the mysterious pimp. I’d like more of her story too.
Well worth a visit, I hope this talented crew get to develop the show further.