The Jailer’s Daughter at The Space
The marriage of the Isle of Dogs’s The Space with Esther Joy Mackay’s The Jailer’s Daughter succeeds well beyond any of the coerced and coercive relationships depicted either in Mackay’s play or the Jacobean source text on which the writer drew for her titular character. The work develops the story of the jailer’s daughter of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s The Two Noble Kinsmen, itself based on a Chaucerian tale, affording her character both a name and a story beyond her parenthetical treatment in the earlier text and imbuing this narrative of social and familial control with immediately recognisable contemporary context.
The jailer’s daughter – Julia (Grace Hussey-Burd) – is in this case the daughter of “the Jailer”, the anonymous voice in control of “The Lock-Up”, a new variation on an old theme of reality television in which minor celebrities and similar enter an enclosed space and are subject, to greater or lesser extent, to the whims of their live audience. Julia, objecting to the cruelty with which the inmates are treated, finds herself on the wrong side of the production team in the studio, where she is completing work experience, leading to a much more immersive experience than she had anticipated.
Each member of the company – The UnDisposables – adopts multiple roles, moving between characters with a smoothness undisrupted by the unpredictability rendered through the inclusion of the live audience voting system. A simple but brilliant piece of technological innovation, the voting pads handed out to the spectators serve to demonstrate perhaps the most unsettling revelation stimulated by Mackay’s play – that, even as characters make reference to “controlled electric shocks” or recent “fatalities”, the audience at home – so to speak – are keen to stay involved, and will not turn their eyes away or relinquish the illusion of control that they have been afforded.
Mackay has gone beyond simply writing into the gaps in Shakespeare and Fletcher’s play, delivering a masterstroke of contemporary theatre while providing, through the building pressures and terror of her own work, a suggestion of why those empty spaces and unnamed characters might have been left unexamined.
Photo: Holly Matthams
The Jailer’s Daughter is at the Space from 20th until 24th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Jailer’s Daughter here: