It looks like a game at first, when the three girls in Jane Upton's play come together for a surprise birthday party on a make-shift campsite amongst all the rubbish down by the railway. Look closer, however, and beyond the supermarket cake and the games of dare on the track-lines, and it's clear that Joanne has got Lisa here for a reason.
Twelve year old Amy probably wouldn't understand. She's “cute, but not in a baby way,” but both Joanne and Lisa bear the scars of what happened at the grown-up parties with the man from the chippy. Lisa got out, to a nice house like those she used to make up stories about as she and Joanne peered through the windows. But unless Joanne does something soon, she'll never get out, and she'll take Amy down with her.
Inspired by recent cases of child sexual grooming gangs, in which some 'older' girls were used to procure younger ones, Upton's joint winner of the 2016 George Devine Most Promising Playwright award makes for a harrowing hour. This is made even more troubling by the lack of any adult onstage to be the bad guy. Instead, Joanne, played by Tessa Orange-Turner with flint-eyed vulnerability, is old enough to get just how damaged she is.
Presented by Fifth Word, an associate company of co-producers Nottingham Playhouse, and with support from the Safe and Sound charity, Laura Ford's production is brought to raw, unrelenting life by Orange-Turner, Esther-Grace Button as Amy and Sarah Hoare as Lisa. As Joanne is left alone in the wilderness to await her fate, if only she could take the leap out of there, perhaps she'd be free.
The Herald, March 27th 2017