How does a high-flying young girl from the back streets go from getting her big break working in a swanky restaurant to serving slops as a prison inmate? Sabrina Mahfouz's street-smart solo verse play tells all over several courses, in which a high-flying club kid from a troubled background goes on a rollercoaster ride, from being the emotional appendage of a wannabe gangster to getting sent down for something she didn't do.
Mahfouz's heroine finds salvation in cooking elaborate dishes that become a means of expression as much as anything else. In the thick of all this are comments on the penal system in all its slopped-out glory, which our woman manages to transcend.
Onstage alone for an hour, Jade Anouka gives an uber-cool and thoroughly believable delivery of Mahfouz's dramatic poem, which flows with a gregarious musicality. By the end of being served up such an overload of wordy riches, the message of Mahfouz's mini masterpiece is to stay hungry, whatever gets thrown at you.
Until August 24
Little On The Inside
Where do you escape to when you're in the darkest of places to keep yourself alive? The answer for the two women in Alice Birch's new play, for the Clean Break company, is a little patch of green that can become anything they want it to.
In Lucy Morrison's bare bones production, Estella Daniels and Sandra Reid play the two women with a tangible sense of antipathy, before each one gradually mellows enough for them to become co-dependents.
This makes for a raw and no-holds barred affair, in which the power of the imagination is raked up even more by it being played in a bare and neutral space that allows the company to open up for business without much fuss.
Daniels and Reid belt out Birch's text with a gutsiness which at times might benefit for more restraint in such an enclosed space, but which still manages to pack a punch.
Until August 24
Britannia Waves The Rules
Blackpool out of season is a dead end town, as the hero of Gareth Farr's blistering little play for the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, makes clear in his opening monologue, a northern English grimoir straight out of the Tony Harrison and John Cooper Clarke school of urban grit laced with poetic wit.
Carl is a secret poet in a wasteland of drug-dealing Brit-pop casualties, a widowed father obsessed with model train sets and a girl seemingly out of his league.
The only way out is to do a runner, join the army, and see the world, even if it does mean a tour of Afghanistan, in which he learns to kill inbetween watching his best mates get shot. Sleep-deprived and stressed, at heart Carl is still a little boy who wants his mum.
Nick Bagnall's production taps into the human psychological cost of the dole queue cannon fodder thrust into the frontline to fight for causes they barely understand.
Dan Parr gives a fearlessly gutsy central performance as Carl, with some great support, especially from Franscesca Zoutewelle as Goldie, who is gifted with some of the funniest one-liners in a play that, like Carl, comes out fighting and takes on the world.