Pests at the Royal CourtCultureTheatre
Vivienne Franzmann’s latest play is a harrowing single act piece inspired by the stories she heard while working as Resident Playwright for Clean Break – a theatre company founded in 1979 that has garnered much critical acclaim for its productions that give voices to women offenders and women at risk. Pests tells the story of two sisters: Rolly, an ex-convict just released and very pregnant, and Pink, an unemployed drug addict.
Rolly is excited about the prospect of starting afresh with a programme for young women in her condition who desire to become honest members of society. She has a job interview for a cleaner’s position at a hotel and hopes to move in with a friend, another young mother, and earn a living in order to support her child. Pink, on the other hand, is happy to lay on her mattress, listen to the Spice Girls on the radio and inject herself with heroin. The two sisters try their best to brighten up their bleak situation with warm childhood memories of going to the beach together, along with their hopes and dreams for the future. Rolly’s desire for a real change however is dashed when she finds that she has been rejected for the job. Pink, in order to cheer her up, returns home with a present for her – a pair of sparkling red shoes, just like the ones Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz. They’re magic shoes, to remind Rolly that there’s no place like home.
The two roles that people the story are beautifully played by Ellie Kendrick (Rolly) and Sinéad Matthews (Pink). Both are meaty roles, and Vivienne Franzmann’s words – written in a strong cockney dialect, which at times is so thick it renders certain plot points difficult to follow – give both actresses a chance to shine. The scenes of the two sisters joking and reminiscing together in Pink’s apartment are sweet and tell of the comfort to be found with siblings, with those moments of tension between them enhanced by the projection of a symbolic spot of flames that grows and grows, seemingly burning up a scenery made of a distressing mound of broken mattresses and sofa cushions. The pace lags after a bit, but nevertheless the play is successful in shining a light on the often hopeless circumstances that many women in the same situation – hoping to detach themselves from the past – have to deal with.
Photo: Alastair Muir
Pests is on at the Royal Court Theatre from 27th March until 3rd May 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Pests here: