Not Our Crime, Still Our Sentence @ Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

The debut production by new Scottish theatre company Under the Rug has plenty of heart but feels unfinished

Review by K Lane | 11 Aug 2023
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Not Our Crime, Still Our Sentence is the debut production of Under the Rug, a new Scottish theatre company “dedicated to social change and global justice” and to "voices that are often ignored, overlooked, and swept under the rug”. These values are on clear display in this new play by the company’s creative director, Mikael Philippos, about the experiences of a family affected by the incarceration of a loved one.

Four years into her husband's 16-year prison sentence, Dawn (Rohanne Woods) is still struggling to adjust to her new "normal". Overwhelmed by the grind of poverty and the demands of her children (Leon Murray as Jake and Annie Ferguson as Amy), Dawn is also plagued by recurring nightmares of a judge keen to share his opinions on every detail of her life.

There are definitely things to like here. Lorna Calder is delightful as Dawn’s bubbly, animal-print-clad best friend Debbie. Will Speirs is also a crowd favourite as both the judge and Dawn’s mother, although the campy comedy performance of his characters sometimes feels tonally at odds with the rest of the show. Overall, however, the script is uneven and oddly paced. Too much has been crammed into the show’s hour-long runtime, leaving the actors struggling to land emotional punches without enough build up. This is particularly noticeable for Joshua Knowles as Dawn’s husband Mark, who has an endearing charm but isn’t given enough stage time for his character arc to ring true.

The short runtime also means that the political complexities raised by the narrative are touched on only briefly. Questions of poverty, social welfare, and carceral logic itself are gestured to but not really explored; it would be good to see Under the Rug dig more deeply into the ideals of change and justice to which the company is dedicated. While Not Our Crime, Still Our Sentence struggles within the limitations of its Fringe setting, we're intrigued to see it developed into a full-length play, and are curious to see what this young company tackles next.

Not Our Crime, Still Our Sentence, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose (Dram), until 17 Aug (not 14), 7.40pm, £11-13