"See them; there's still time"
by Janet Locke on 30/08/11

"I'll Show you Mine" and "Beauty is Prison Time". Two one-act one-woman plays at the Giant Olive Theatre, Gaisford Street. NW5

As part of the Gæa Festival, now at The Giant Olive Theatre until November, there are two bravura performances from exceptionally talented performers.

In "I'll Show You Mine", by Raphaele Moussafir, Caroline Horton, The Stage Awards 2010, Best Solo Performer, leads us through the development of a young child through to puberty. The minimalist set of a single beam serves as a bed, sofa, table, entrance to a secret den, where smoking and kissing are practised, and finally a bicycle. Caroline assumes the voices and characteristics of her immediate family, a grandmother, an aged aunt, a less than intelligent maid and then her teenage cohort to great comedic effect.

The family patronise Rachel and there are some wonderful moments when Caroline performs the bullying Rachel suffers from her brother. Switching between parts with the clever use of hands, voice and facial expressions makes the characters credible. The script shows the natural cruelty of children to those they imagine to be inferior to them as Rachel enjoys taunting the family's maid, Melanie. It's cruel but very funny. Her naïve fantasy love affair with King Kong is a delight

Mention must be made of Delyth Jones' direction which kept the pace going brilliantly and this together with the lighting, which was time-perfect, did much to enhance the characters and the simple set.

The second play "Beauty is Prison Time", is written and performed by Zoe Mavroudi and directed by Terra Vandergaw. This play is based on a real Russian prison pageant and Lyudmilla is sensitively, and movingly, portrayed by Zoe.

We see Lyudmilla in her in the prison camp desperately learning English to be able to communicate with her daughter when she is finally reunited with her. The only way out is by winning the prison Beauty Contest and she spends some of her time sewing her costume and rehearsing her entrance into the contest.

Through a series of wonderfully acted scenes we get to understand how, gentle, naive Lyudmilla ended up in the sordid clubs of Moscow and finally becoming part of its underworld. Dancing one by one with a series of men's jackets on a clothes rail portrays how she spends her working life in the clubs. She gets pregnant and is sadly betrayed by her madame who keeps demanding more and more money to hand over the baby she has already sent away to an English-speaking country. Lyudmilla attempts to get more money and lands in gaol.

It's beautifully portrayed but sad and what comes through is the sheer hopelessness of fulfilling her dreams of being reunited with her growing daughter.

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