Mucky Kid at Theatre503
Maggie Radcliffe was a child-killer while still a child herself. Mucky Kid follows 36 hours in her life, escaped from an open prison and tasting adult freedom for the first time.
Sam Potter’s debut play as a writer has a lofty aim: to ask if everyone deserves a second chance in life. This reeks of first-play-itis and an inexperienced playwright taking on themes far too big for her, but Potter is an experienced director and she brings all her sage theatrical know-how to bear on this carefully constructed debut.
Based on extensive research into youth offending, the central nugget that Potter obsesses over is the untrustworthy testimony of kids. And so it is for Maggie. Her day and a half of freedom with fellow jail-breaker Naomi introduces her to Derek and Jason – two Norwich lads – and 10-year-old truant Paige. But quite what happens between these five characters is left entirely up for debate as Maggie’s account of events changes with the wind. “Use your words” she’s told by friends, lovers and gaolers alike. But it’s her very words that can’t be trusted.
Because of this Mucky Girl is a slippery beast, replaying the same scenes time and again, toying with their tone and content on each occasion. A one-time tender first kiss becomes a grotty sex act; a loving gesture becomes a frightened betrayal. Everything about this play – the characters, the plot and the truth – is in a state of flux. Progressively sinister scenes in a diner and therapy room take the audience from sympathising with Maggie to questioning Daily Mail–style if she should ever be allowed out.
And therein lies the play’s only issue: the audience condemns Maggie because that’s the last interpretation offered up. An overly long final interrogation suggests that some truth has finally been reached – a truth that not only paints Maggie in a negative light but utterly refutes the rehabilitative capacity of the penal system.
Sonia Cassidy lights up Theatre503’s intimate space with a strong central performance as Maggie: her wide-eyed, jut-jawed ticks are the signature of a perpetual juvenile trapped in an ageing body that missed out on childhood. She’s ably backed up by a universally strong cast led by Rob Witcomb as the hapless duffle-coated Derek, but this is a one-woman dominated world with Maggie as queen of the plot, the truth and indeed the entire play.
Mucky Kid is at Theatre503 at the Latchmere until 7th December 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch an interview with Sonya Cassidy here: