Morgan Lloyd Malcolm – who had a barnstorming hit with her play Emilia, about an Elizabethan poet – returns to the Sheffield Crucible with another show about women finding and raising their voices. This time, it’s a contemporary story of female prisoners in a unit that helps them prepare for release with creative workshops. Typical Girls is a co-production between Sheffield theatres and Clean Break, a theatre company that works with women with lived experience of the criminal justice system, and the cast features both professional actors and Clean Break members.
The well-meaning Marie (Lucy Ellinson) goes into a prison to lead music workshops with a group of five inmates with personality disorders, who have committed violent crimes. For a show about incarcerated women finding their voices through music, what better music to choose than that of female punk pioneers The Slits? Songs about the limiting expectations placed on women, messed-up relationships, and even shoplifting fit snugly into Lloyd Malcolm’s stories for each character.
A mixed bag of performances unify around rackety but fun renditions of The Slits’ suitably rough-around-the-edges songs. Yet outside of these, the raw spirit of punk can feel lacking in Roisin McBrinn’s oddly diffuse, defused production. This should be a pressure cooker, but some of the most dramatic moments – the women threatening each other; the fear that one of their number has killed themselves; a horribly misguided intervention from Marie – fail to amp up the tension.
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