Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A short, powerful and comic two-hander, Dream Pill tells a story of child trafficking, through the gentle and subtle narrative of two nine year olds.
This short, punchy drama is powerful, funny and subtle. Nine year olds Bola and Tunde (acted superbly by Danielle Vitalis and Samantha Pearl) are child prostitutes trafficked from Nigeria, who share their story with the audience. The writing of this piece is inspired. Rebecca Prichard has created a clever script in which all the specifics of the horrors of Bola and Tunde’s experiences are hinted at but never explicitly stated. They are described by children who do not understand what is happening to them, but the audience does understand, and this irony makes the comedy of the childish stories tragic and much more powerful than more blatant polemics would be. The script is genuinely funny and convincingly childlike: for example when talking of their plane journey to the UK Bola describes the smiling air hostess who ‘smiles in your food to take the taste away!’ This innocent humour is what gives this piece its chilling power.
Vitalis and Pearl’s portrayals of the children are very impressive. They are well-observed, convincing, and never stereotyped or over-played. Both have such control that even the slightest movement of the eyes is measured and conveys a clear message. There are some particularly impressive moments when they enact other characters to tell parts of their story, but play those characters through the characters of Bola and Tunde, as children play-acting. Tessa Walker’s directing is simple and restrained, using a close study of children’s behaviour to inform the way the actors play their roles. Soutra Gilmour’s design has great impact: a particularly strong example being Tunde’s sparkly dress and high heels. This is such a powerful image – the familiarity of a little girl dressing up in frills and over-large shoes takes on a sinister resonance in this context as the audience knows that the dressing up is not innocent fun.
The audience laughed and were moved: this subtle play of comic dramatic irony is extremely powerful. Dream Pill is an impressive piece of theatre that conveys an important message. I recommend it highly.