Firebird, Trafalgar Studios 2, theatre review: The class politics at play in neglect of white working class girls

The play about Rochdale child sex rings leaves us with just a smidgen of hope that the protagonist will rise from the ashes

Holly Williams
Tuesday 23 February 2016 12:50 GMT
Callie Cooke and Phaldut Sharma in Firebird
Callie Cooke and Phaldut Sharma in Firebird

There's a risk that staging a play about the Rochdale child sex rings could descend into voyeuristic rehashing of real-life horrors. Luckily, Phil Davies has, in his debut play, written a teenager called Tia who is three-dimensional; yes, she’s a victim, but there’s heart and humour here too. And in just-outta-drama-school Callie Cook, he’s found a young actress who can scorch through this harrowing material, while leaving us with just a smidgen of hope that Tia will rise again from the ashes.

Edward Hall’s 75-minute production – transferring from Hampstead Downstairs – has break-neck pace, as Tia leaps from bolshy teen to be being utterly dependent on AJ, the older Asian man who tempts her with gifts and the promise of escape. A scene of blood-spattered confrontation between Tia and AJ makes for gruesomely painful viewing.

That the same actor, Phadlut Sharma, also plays a useless, callous policeman is a brilliantly nasty bit of double-casting, allowing us to see men the way Tia does: they’re all the same, all reneging on their promises to protect her. Subtly revealing Tia’s poverty, Davies also reminds us of the class politics at play in the real-life neglect of troubled white working class girls.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in