From the opening audio of news headlines highlighting cases of historical abuse finally coming to light, there is a very clear message in tonight’s show – the system has done a terrible job of supporting victims of abuse, with perpetrators often walking scot-free; prosecutors unable to meet a seemingly impossible threshold of evidence to make a case worth pursuing.
Mia Lockley has turned her own experience into a short play, being shown as part of the Manchester Fringe festival. We meet Lottie, a young woman who finally decides to report the abuse she has suffered at the hands of her grandfather, only to hit brick wall after brick wall as she tries to get justice.
Mia acts as our narrator, guiding us through Lottie’s story, which is made powerful from being informed by (sadly) personal experience.
The narration is supported by little vignettes showing key moments in Lottie’s story – confessing to her teacher; talking with the police receiving the devastating letter that confirms nothing further will be done – and the impact these have on her mental health.
Young Lottie is played by Becca Collings with Dani Lisa Buck and Natalie Allpress taking on multiple roles as teachers, social workers, police and Lottie’s mum. There are a pair of clothes rails either side of the small stage to allow costume changes, with a collection of chairs and home-made props.
Dani Lisa is particularly strong in her roles, whereas Natalie has a tougher gig, with the majority of her characters being so implausibly cold and dismissive, it’s difficult to tell if this is a flaw in the show’s writing and acting, or just a damning indictment of the impotence of the justice system. If it’s the latter, it’s a shocking moment of exposure.
Becca Collings also has a mixed performance sometimes struggling to convey in her performance the emotional toll the whole process is taking on Lottie. There are also some mimed moments that look a bit awkward, and overall, it feels the piece could benefit from a more experienced director and perhaps a movement coach to help bring better flow and performance.
Knowing that this is a personal story makes this a tough piece of theatre to ultimately review but if the aim is for Mia to root her experience into a theatrical performance, then there is opportunity to take this show back for further development to tighten the weaker elements.
Nevertheless, she is a compelling narrator to listen to, successfully conveying the sheer frustration at how woeful the system’s ability to support Lottie is, be it through incompetence, a lack of compassion and empathy or infuriating red tape that leaves Lottie’s experience (and therefore Mia’s) harrowingly labelled as ‘alleged’ forevermore. And one hopes that if anyone listening has had similar experience, they can at least take some tiny comfort in knowing they are not alone.
Reviewer: Lou Steggals
Reviewed: 29th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: