Clean Break double bill - Amongst the Reeds by Chino Odimba and House by Somalia Seaton
Founded in 1979, Clean Break has been helping to fill a void left largely untouched by mainstream theatres for decades.
Set up by two female prisoners Jenny Hicks and Jacqueline Holborough, the theatre company has stuck to its roots and continues to engage with and explore female offenders and the issues they are faced with.
Women of black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds tragically make up a significantly higher percentage of the country's prison population compared to the general population, and so it is their talent and stories Clean Break has committed to exploring in their current production.
Seaton handles the heavy topic with skill in her kitchen sink drama with a twist. Culture and generation clashes fuel both laugh out loud and watery eyed reactions from the audience.
Thanks to a full on six month Emerging Writers' Programme and hours of research, two new plays were born and after a run at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe have found a fitting home at The Yard Theatre (see listing), an increasingly renowned space for new writing and ideas.
Presented as a double bill, the first play is Amongst The Reeds by Nigerian born and British raised Chino Odimba. Best friends Oni and Gillian are typical teenage girl best friends, sharing jokes and memories and giggling at the mention of boys. This innocent and curious energy is brought to life by Rebecca Omogbehin and Jan Le. They manage to seamlessly incorporate the vulnerable and naive elements of the characters as the daunting reality of their situation comes to light.
We learn quickly that both girls are homeless and in the country illegally. To make matters worse, Gillian is heavily pregnant and their squat full of mice and rubbish isn't as homely as Oni would like to think. Forced to run from abusive families, Oni and Gillian share a similar story with that of far too many women trapped in a horrendous situation and unable to find help in a system that will only criminalize them.
Clean Break continue to carry out important work, giving voices to the unheard and reminding audiences of the obstacles and inequalities that women are so often dealt.
Themes of abuse run through in to the second piece of the evening House by Somalia Seaton (read interview), a story of how not having the right support and understanding can easily lead women with mental health problems down a path of imprisonment. Seaton handles the heavy topic with skill in her kitchen sink drama with a twist. As a celebration turns into the emotional unearthing of a family secret, culture and generation clashes fuel both laugh out loud and watery-eyed reactions from the audience.
Being short plays tackling such weighty and complex subjects, both performances sometimes felt too busy with House especially crying out to be expanded and explored.
There is no doubt however that Clean Break continue to carry out important work, giving voices to the unheard and reminding audiences of the obstacles and inequalities that women are so often dealt.