Jasper Cunningham reviews Victim at the Pleasance, Edinburgh
With a cleverly simplistic style, Victim explores the lives of two characters; a female prison warden and an inmate in the same institution. When a new inmate with a particularly harrowing backstory arrives, the natural order of prison life is unwittingly disrupted and this leads to some poignant contemplations on relationships, work and how life fits in with it all.
Louise Beresford is a versatile actress whose ability to switch so seamlessly between two different characters is massively impressive. She captures the manipulative flair of inmate Siobhan and plays her with unnerving charm, but she also gives the mundane life of prison warden Tracey a sympathetic portrayal, adding touches of light humour to her otherwise uneventful life. It is no wonder, then, that Tracey becomes so obsessed with the new inmate, Marcia, and it is interesting to see her position of authority weaken as she becomes more absorbed in one prisoner’s life and less focused on the power-play of the more demanding prisoners; she unwittingly becomes a victim herself.
Martin Murphy’s writing itself is strong and his dry humour works well, but some humorous moments did not seem to fit and disrupted the flow. This is true of the brief moments of audience interaction, no doubt intended to further the intimacy of the production, but which have the opposite effect and break the audience’s immersion in the double-stranded story. The production was most successful when it delved into the deeper issues of unhealthy relationships and how the consequences of one simple mistake can have such an extreme impact.
All in all, this show boasts an impressive performance from Beresford and provides an important insight into the lesser-explored world of a women’s prison.