Friday, 29 September 2017

REVIEW: You Forgot the Mince at Courtyard Theatre


Rose (Francesca Joy) lives in Leeds with her grandmother Lily (Ursula Mohan) and, fresh out of college, has exciting plans for the future. After the summer, she wants to move to London and go to university to become a journalist but, during the school break, she meets Nico (Prince Plockey), a door-to-door window seller who works on commission, and falls madly in love with him.

The bond between them appears immediately intense, as we see them snuggling and play-fighting in Rose's living room. With a combination of spoken word and physical performance we're projected fast forward into Rose's first year in London, when her academic achievements clash with Nico's personal failures. After being arrested, he spends 12 months in prison, whereas Rose struggles to fit her commitments whilst attempting to maintain their relationship.

When Nico is released, the couple decides to move in together, but the already tormented situation doesn't show any signs of improvement and the young man manifests a disturbed attitude that quickly escalates from verbal to physical abuse. Trapped between Nico's false promises that he'll change and ashamed to share her troubles with her grandma, Rose becomes increasingly withdrawn, eventually developing a severe psychological disorder.

Joy's writing shines with poignant lines, more often delivered by the character she personally embodies. She candidly presents real situations and their natural reactions, allowing the audience to easily relate to them. "Do you have any idea of how it feels to be scared in my own house?" she shouts to her aggressive partner, in one of her moments of rebellion. "It's just easier to sit in my house and be scared than going to see my family and friends," she tells herself when desperation takes over her whole life.

Despite feeling compelled by the topic, I watched the performance with a jarring impression, caused, in the first place, by the excessive pacing of the actors across the stage, which sometimes reflected the tension of the scene but often generated unnecessary anxiety. 

There are also some structural limitations to the play, due to the cavernous Courtyard Theatre, where the high ceilings and vast adjacent backstage make the voices reverberate. To make things worse, someone at the back of the auditorium kept coughing throughout the whole 60-minute single act, enhancing my sense of discomfort for the convincing violent scenes.

My main concern, however, comes from the casting of an actor of colour to represent the perpetrator, in opposition to a white female victim. This is a controversial choice, which risks to send out the wrong message in times when so many human rights activists fight against ethnic stereotyping and racial profiling.

Overall, Joy has a powerful point to make and seeing this play can really make a difference for so many victims – and perpetrators – who might recognise themselves into the characters on stage. Currently on a national tour – which will engage also with offenders – You Forgot the Mince is a strongly relevant piece of new writing, which is aptly aimed at showing the immediate and long-term consequences of domestic abuse.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★
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