Sunday, 7 August 2011

Beauty is Prison-Time 6th August 2011

Who is in it? Written and performed by Zoe Mavroudi
Where did you see it? Giant Olive Theatre; above the Lion and Unicorn pub, Kentish Town

As I mentioned on here and Twitter there is very little comedy in London at the moment *glares northwards* so August is SERIOUS THEATRE MONTH for Brain Tree's Comedy Reviews. It will go back to comedy in September.

Beauty is Prison-Time tells the story of Lyudmilla (Mavroudi), a inmate in a Siberian prison, and her efforts in the prison's annual beauty contest in which the prize is parole. Over the performance Mavroudi delivers a humorous and harrowing depiction of life in prison and the tragedy that Lyudmilla there in the first place.  Inspired by a real Russian prison pageant it also looks at other circumstances that find women in prisons around the world; drugs, violence, prostitution and a mother's love all feature.

As a performance it is faultless. Mavroudi juggles humour and tragedy so effectively that she is a captivating performer and I would be reluctant to see her in an ensemble piece because she worked so well solo. The use of props is incredibly well done, in what is a small space.

I do have to question whether I am stupid or whether Mavroudi has purposely created story that makes you think "Hang on, I may need to see this again" how Lyudmilla ended up pregnant or even involved in the  Moscow underworld wasn't explained, nor was it explained that in her search for her daughter why she still was in love with the man who indirectly lead to her imprisonment.

I suppose I struggled with the concept of woman who had ended up toughened by life and the prison system would go back. This a petty criticism on my part overall the play and performance is fantastic and it makes me sad there aren't more 'Play for Today' programmes that would showcase this work on television. The audience for play was small, not that it can fit a huge amount of people anyway and I think it deserves a much wider audience.

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