Key Change

Key Change, directed by Laura Lindow, is devised by women in HMPYOI Low Newton and follows the stories of 4 female inmates. It is a strong piece of theatre and follows the prisoners’ relationships with each other and to their families outside.

A brave piece of work with a strong message

The main action revolves around Kelly (played by Christina Berriman Dawson) and Angie (played by Jessica Johnson) and their blooming friendship. Kelly is the closest to an innocent in the group, and suffers from an abusive husband while concerned about her three children who are fending for themselves. Angie is a seasoned heroin addict and a tough nut. Dawson does fantastic work and plays the new member of the group with beautiful delicacy. She balances fear and the will to survive with skill and is a joy to watch. Once we get to the final fight scene we are very much empathising with her and her wish to speak to her children.

Johnson is eminently believable as the hard woman and the heroin scenes in particular are enthralling. Her frank talking manner is the train by which we are taken along through the story: strong work, and very natural.

The rest of the cast is excellent too; this truly is an ensemble piece and the team work well together. Victoria Copeland as Lorraine, Cheryl Dixon as Lucy and Judi Earl as Kim all do stunning jobs. They are consistently focused upon one another, and when swapping roles are a delight to watch. 

The main aspect which could be worked on is the pace, which could be upped in a lot of places. Also, while some of the physical theatre moments are brilliantly done and add a lot to the scenes, some require either tightening or changing – occasionally they feel clumsy or simply lacking in the expert skill they require. That being said, this is a brave piece of work with a strong message which I would highly recommend seeing.

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The Blurb

The prison van, fences high, a magpie. 'One for sorrow. Snatched the babies. The mother fought, but it was too big and flew too high.’ Devised by women from HMPYOI Low Newton and originally toured to male prisons, Key Change is a raw and illuminating portrayal of women in prison, using only a few chairs, a ghetto blaster and four rolls of masking tape. Directed by Laura Lindow, written by Catrina McHugh and developed through a Dilly Arts commission, Key Change was named the North East’s Best Devised Piece by in 2014.