Play: Inside Bitch
Theatre: Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court Theatre
Playwrights: Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson
Co-creators: Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar & Jade Small
Assistant director: Milli Bhatia
Review by Tamera Heron
Inside Bitch is a devised ensemble piece by Clean Break members where four women (all acting as themselves) brainstorm content for a show based on life in prison.
Exasperated by the misrepresentation of prison life, as perpetuated by popular culture, including Orange is the New Black, they share their thoughts and tales about their own experiences. “We’ve got the real shit, and trust me, it’s dark as fuck, and it will knock your socks off!”
Beginning with the famous monologue and soundtrack from the acclaimed film Shawshank Redemption, it seems as if the play is going to be a dramatised performance of prison life. Instead, the cast break the fourth-wall to directly address the audience. They tell us of their plan to produce a dramedy series, creating a focus group atmosphere, against a colour backdrop, as the play.
At one point, the voice of an unseen narrator calls out words commonly associated with prison life. From tracksuits to suicide, the cast casually respond to both trivial and serious subjects, talking over each other; no longer fazed by the misconceptions of prison life.
One of the most memorable moments is when the women share snippets of a tale from prison, leading to the birth of a nickname for their TV personas. TerriAnn Oudjar comically retells her story, explaining how she earned the name Pitbull, due to her short height and sturdy frame, generating much laughter from the audience.
All of the women, apart from Jennifer Joseph, speak over their pre-recorded voices. She reads aloud, in a booth, surrounded only by the dim glow of the stage lights. Joseph emotionally reveals the moment she was arrested in front of her children, and the toll it took on them, providing a sentimental tone to the otherwise humorous stories.
The only time the lively cast is lost for words is when asked if they could remember a time when they had a good laugh in prison. The laughs which were plentiful, are absent. Instead, the prolonged silence speaks volumes.
In a short space of time the cast takes the audience through the motions of the show being aired, the decline and the aftermath. Despite feeling as if we are participating in a brainstorming session to gather material for a pending play, instead of watching one, it makes the Inside Bitch experience surprisingly insightful.
Inside Bitch is at the Royal Court Theatre until the 23rd of March 2019.