Article by contributing writer Ruby Gilmour.
This week Bristol Spotlights staged two plays – Doris Day & Fatal Light at The Room Above. Taken from Charged, a collection of 6 short plays that address the impact the criminal justice system has on women, Doris Day & Fatal Light confront these effects on police officers, prisoners and their families.
Doris Day follows two childhood friends now serving on the same Metropolitan Police Force team, and their conflict when they disagree over the fundamental practices of their job. Alex O’Donnell gives a strong start as Daisy, rising and dancing before her shift, with sublime comic timing when her colleague and flatmate, Anna, played by Asher Osbourne Grinter, returns from hers. Their difference in personality is apparent from the start, Daisy’s joyful mood suppressed immediately upon Anna’s returns. Alex O’Connell’s Daisy is nuanced, her concern and dismay at Anna portrayed delicately through subtle looks. As Anna, Osborne Grinter conjures tension in her cutting speech, brash and abrasive. Tilly Story and Jason Palmer’s kitchen set was excellently conceived, impressively framed by newspapers cuttings, mugshots as well as photos of female victims of domestic violence, a constant reminder of the themes at the heart of both plays. Although an interesting concept, I did find Doris Day a little hard to follow at times. I would have preferred it to be longer in order to allow more character development and to establish a richer history of the two women and it certainly wasn’t as riveting as Fatal Light.
Fatal Light portrays the profound implications a prison sentence can have on a family, focusing on Jay, a struggling single mother and her immediate family. Polly Wain’s remarkable portrayal of a newly incarcerated mother cannot go unmentioned, effortlessly the most emotional and moving performance of the evening. Only appearing in the second half, the energy increased fiercely when she appeared on stage, and I found myself enthralled by her. Playing three drastically different parts with undeniable confidence, Asher Osborne Grinter’s portrayals did verge on caricature at points. Despite this, they were still three commendable performances, particularly so as the actress performing the most parts. Lighting and sound design for both parts were agreeable, in scene change moments, the energy did not lull and audiences were still captivated – a testament also to the set design that meant I was always engaged.
This is a event that is undoubtedly thought provoking and moving in equal parts. It is carried well by the three performers, who multi role with distinction and ease. The space is utilised in a captivating and imaginative way and this is a credit to the directors Brenda Callis and Benedict Crosby. Written by women, performed by women, it should go without saying it’s always inspiring to see something so female centric.