Battersea Arts Centre
Open Clasp, an all-women’s theatre company are doing and achieving wonderful things in the world of community theatre. Key change is a production based upon previous work with real women in prison – the aim to originally put on a piece of theatre to their peers, Open Clasp has now transferred it to the public with the use of actors.
Highlighting domestic abuse, drug addiction and the mediocre and difficult life sustained by women in prison, this clever company draws upon physical theatre along the use of staging, music and lighting to create violent scenes, verbatim stories and incidences with the ‘inmates’ role swapping to give power to the stories and breaking the forth wall and comical writing to cleverly cut the tension and emotional and powerful scenes.
The performers are excellent – ranging in ages, each one is physically able to move around the space and evidently enjoying doing so. They are also very clever to change their bodies, movement, voices and facial expressions to create different characters – some we hate, some we love. This is done in a way that when we hear the stories of each inmate, we forget when they showed us the wife beater or the times when violence in prison is rife.
Some of it is comical by breaking the fourth wall – we see times where the performers make it obvious that we are in a performance and play upon this for our amusement, but still never breaking character. There’s foul language and slightly rude insinuations but again these either helped with the comedy or pushed the boundaries of these true and horrifying stories.
Key Change is a beautiful piece of work. Open Clasp have given us the right balance in true life stories and issues with a hint of comic relief that is respectful and a truly wonderful piece of theatre. It challenges our stereotypes and beliefs of women ‘criminals’ and gives a sympathetic and realisation to the innocent and self-protecting reasons some of them have been incarcerated.