Posts Tagged ‘Maureen Chadwick’

Bad Girls was a TV show which, between 1999 and 2006, had eight series and over 100 episodes. The sort of show that you’d expect to be a cult was actually ITV mainstream. The public seemed to take to its combination of serious and light storylines with a touch of lesbian homoeroticism! The same team gave us five series of Footballers Wives during the latter part of same period, and both share a larger-than-life exaggerated OTT style. After the final series, writers Maureen Chadwick and Ann McManus teamed up with Kath Gotts on this musical, which premiered in Leeds before a West End run which only lasted three months, including previews. I quite liked it at the time, though it didn’t wow me, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to take in this fringe revival at the Union Theatre.

Set in a fictitious women’s prison, we follow the lives of a variety of inmates, incarcerated for anything from shoplifting to murder. Two of the screws are old school, but the wing governor is very much a new broom. Shell and Denny are the unofficial leaders of the bad girls, though the arrival of gangster’s girlfriend Yvonne challenges them. Officer Fenner uses some of the girls for sex and new inmate, young Rachel, imprisoned for possession of drugs with intent to supply, becomes his latest target. This leads to tragedy, a violent reaction from the rest of the prisoners and a blame game amongst the prison staff. There’s a sub-plot involving an on-off lesbian relationship between the wing governor Helen and prisoner Nikki.

The score was better than I remembered and the lyrics particularly good, and the musical standards were high. It’s performed by an excellent cast of seventeen. Of the staff, I particularly liked the bad guys – predatory Fenner played by Gareth Davies and his old school ally ‘Bodybag’ played by Maggie Robson. Sinead Long plays a very plausible con and Christine Holman commands the stage as Yvonne. There’s a lovely pair of Julie’s, responsible for the food, played by Jayne Ashley and Catherine Digges. The Union space doesn’t need much of a makeover to turn it into a prison (!), so the design focus is on Jess Philips’ spot-on costumes. I thought it was a great use of the space, in a traverse setting that worked a lot better than they sometimes do, and the choreography of the ensemble pieces by Jo McShane was particularly effective. My only gripes with Will Keith’s production is that it was nowhere near tongue-in-cheek enough, and overlong at almost 2h40m, partly caused by overlong scene changes.

It’s not a great musical, but its worth catching this small-scale revival.


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