Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Edinburgh Fringe: 'Victim' at the Pleasance Attic, 9th August 2017

Victim reviewed by David James

Rating: 3 Stars

Victim is a neat little one woman show about the uneasy relationship between prisoner and prison guard. Written by Martin Murphy and performed by Louise Beresford, the piece switches between two people that occupy the same environment but from very different perspectives. 

We first meet Tracey, a confident and likeable woman who's been working as a prison guard for a couple of years. She's built up enough experience to be aware that prisoners can manipulate guards, but not quite enough to fully develop the mental plate mail that prevents them getting under her skin. Right now she's fascinated by new arrival Marcia, whose conviction for assisting in the murder of her baby has dominated headlines.

All too soon we meet a character on the other side of the bars. Prisoner A23174 Siobhan has murdered her ex-boyfriend and has set herself up as a 'fixer' to the other prisoners, able to provide drugs, mobile phones and favours... for a price. She's also the new cellmate of Marcia, recognising that she can use Tracey's interest in her for her own ends.

Whichever character is being portrayed is shown by a red and blue light behind the performer, though this is arguably unnecessary as Beresford does such a great job defining each character's body language and behaviour. She's an easy performer to like, drawing the audience into the story with liberal amounts of eye contact and occasionally physically interacting with them. I had a pleasure of her in Siobhan mode draping her arm around me as she explained that women are more natural predators than men.

Murphy's writing is also packed full of entertaining and well-observed incidental details. Tracey relates the tale of a man whose arse was as full of treasure as Aladdin's cave, the gormlessness of a prison art therapist or the illicit thrill of having a breakfast of canned gin and Quavers on a train.

But while Victim is engaging I don't think the two women's stories dovetail together as neatly as they should. There's some meaty drama late in the production after Tracey slips up and gives Siobhan some leverage over her, but the consequences don't quite live up to their ominous promise. Perhaps a more steady and thorough corruption of Tracey and more extreme consequences for the two women would have made the title Victim that much more ambiguous.

It leaves Victim is an entertaining but not crucial watch. It's in competition with a hell of a lot of one woman/man shows across the Fringe, the best of which almost literally knocked my socks off. This has above-average writing and Louise Beresford can rightly be proud of her performance, but it doesn't quite do enough to distinguish it from the competition.

Victim is at the Pleasance Attic Aug 10-15, 17-28. Tickets here.

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