Crime and punishment

billy the girlReconciling entertaining drama with a deeper underlying message is one of the great challenges of playwriting, and that challenge is complicated further when it comes to work commissioned by Clean Break, the ground-breaking company that seeks to change the lives of women offenders through education and theatre. However, prolific stage and radio scriptwriter Katie Hims wears the responsibility lightly, using her time with female prisoners at HMP Holloway and Askham Grange as inspiration for a piece with refreshing lightness of touch.

Hims observed that many of the women she worked with presented their situations with real wit, and Billy the Girl is infused with it, from cracking one-liners to wry, intelligent observational humour. The strongest sections of the play treat the familial tensions and wider debates about justice and imprisonment with that same bracing jocularity, switching easily between prison life and Patrick Swayze, stabbings and Slim Fast, and cha cha and cancer.

Read my full Bargain Theatreland review here

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