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Published 3 April 2014

What’s it all about?

Developed with Clean Break, the acclaimed theatre company that works with female offenders, award-winning playwright Vivienne Franzmann wrote Pests to show how and why women end up in prison. The blistering result is a tale of destructive family ties, the cycle of addiction and the truism that, for better or worse, there really is no place like home.

Who’s in it?

Ellie Kendrick and Sinéad Matthews as sisters Rolly and Pink. The intense 100 minute drama opens with the heavily pregnant Rolly’s return from prison. Clean and filled with good intentions of a life on the straight and narrow, the panic in her older sister Pink’s eyes is heartbreakingly clear from the outset as she bullies and manipulates, digging her desperately clinging finger nails into Rolly’s life until the pair are on an even keel once more.

What should I look out for?

Joanna Scotcher’s set: a rubbish-strewn nest of torn mattresses and ripped out stuffing in which the two scramble, fight and embrace under Lucy Morrison’s striking direction. The impressive Kendrick and Matthews give emotionally raw performances; relishing Franzmann’s remarkable script that invents a Clockwork Orange-inspired new language for the pair.

In a nutshell?

Bleak, brutal and brilliant, Vivienne Franzmann’s Pests is poetic and harrowing in equal measure.

 What’s being said on Twitter?

@S_Brocklehurst I was quite blown away by Pests, the new Clean Break show @royalcourt – remarkable play, Sinead Matthews & Ellie Kendrick totally smash it.

@ruthm131 Pests at @royalcourt. WOW. I think the best play I’ve ever seen. Absolutely blown away. Go see it now. And what an amazing company @CleanBrk

Will I like it?

Pests is not easy viewing, it is theatre that holds no punches and is unafraid to shock. But Franzmann succeeds in her ambition to create a piece that ensures the circle of reoffending hits home without ever falling into clichéd territory and never feels voyeuristic or shallow. Kendrick and Matthews’ exhausting performances are brilliantly nuanced, the drama is a rollercoaster ride of darkness and light, and, for all its inevitable bleakness, Pink’s fierce intelligence and Rolly’s will to survive soars through all.


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