Edinburgh Fringe 2021
This is the story of Jackie. Born into a house where her mother was an alcoholic and her father guilty of domestic abuse, she grows up to repeat the lessons of history until she ends up in prison. From being diagnosed with ADHD, treated like a potential criminal by education and then being responsible for not seeking her treatment, life has dealt her the hand which can be clichéd for some, inevitable for others. And then she finds hope and transforms herself by helping others. Such is her inspirational story she manages to support others to find their own worth by giving back too.
This is a performance where the miracle happened before the stage was lit. The work undertaken to get people here is remarkable. It is evident in the earnest approach being taken and the care with which each step on that stage is taken. Rather than awe inspiring it is a testimony to the work being done to provide opportunities for the culturally disenfranchised.
But being worthy is insufficient in itself. This needs to be theatrically worthwhile too. Here we have a few issues but none that are insurmountable. The script does tend towards the telling rather than the dramatic and the interplay between characters can try and tell the message rather than tell the story. But to begin with Hamlet and highlight the tragedy of the experiences of the parents being visited upon the child does manage to hit home.
The performances are patchy but that is all part of the charm. Where there is a connection between the actor and the character it works best. This is because we are not seeing artifice but reality. They are an able bunch but, like many groups who come from the world of addiction, their belief is slightly less assured because they seem to feel that this type of art might not “be for them” It leads to decisions which are based on what they think might be right – lights, entrances, exits and the like.
In terms of direction, it makes their production slightly lacking because they could be so much bolder by using the very limitations they feel as strengths. Keeping entrances and exits in one place would help people remember to which side they should be heading, or just having everyone onstage all the time would also work. If the stage had been set up like a courtroom, with Jackie being the judge of her own life then people playing lawyers could have been onstage with big folders in which prompts could be laid to help memories. The voiceover could be in the form of a faceless social enquiry report – as if – where the structure of the institutions trying to control care experienced people and those whose trauma is real is given a voice that is as soft and warm and personable as hidden prejudice could be.
Drama is well versed in the world of addiction. Being bold enough to be innovative and not try and be a proper theatre piece would be the next step because on the evidence of this, this bunch have every right to tread these boards and many more thereafter.