Clean Break was set up in 1979 by two women prisoners who believed that theatre could bring the hidden stories of imprisoned women to a wider audience. Now celebrating their 40th year they are starting to bring the women themselves, rather than just their stories and verbatim accounts, to stage.
Inside Bitch is a chaotic piece, but not in a bad way, it reflects, perhaps, the chaos that imprisonment has brought to these women's lives. More sketch show than play it uses various styles, from video to dthought they were the 'cons' yet at some pointance to enactment to the reading of verbatim statements, to try and overturn the ridiculously incorrect impressions of woemen's prisons given out in film and on TV.
These are 'ordinary' women, had they been sitting beside you in the audience you would not for a single instant have thought they were the 'cons' yet at some point, each of their lives has taken a wrong turn and the resulting impact will be with them for life. We do not know what put these women in prison, it could have been murder or failure to pay a TV licence, it doesn't matter, we see them as people trying their best to cope with a system that has lost its way without losing all of their personal dignity and hope.
At one point, they each ask the audience a question (which we are told not to answer out loud) - the questions force us to confront our own attitudes to ex-prisoners in a truly uncomfortable way.
Slightly messy though it was, this is a powerful hour (and a bit) of theatre which really does help to explain and contextualise issues around women's prisons. I was also very happy to see a handout at the end "If you have been affected by the issues..." with guidance on some helpful charities - being involved with the SIT-UP Awards as I am this warmed my heart.
p.s. a shout-out for Crystal, the long suffering stage manager!