Vicious @ Deaf Connections Theatre, Glasgow

Vicious is a heartfelt discussion of the affects of pension and benefit cuts in the UK and the daily struggle of women to simply survive

Review by Sophie Smith | 03 Apr 2019

In times of austerity, it's women who suffer the most – and this, as Jeanette Hill remarks with her new play, is Vicious. Directed by Caroline Lewis, it's centred around the lives of Betty (Bernie Barrett) and Maureen (Una McDade) and based almost entirely in one kitchen. Vicious is a heartfelt discussion of the affects of pension and benefit cuts in the U.K and the daily struggle of women to simply survive.

Sincere, tender, and at times hilarious, the play consists of the conversations that take place between the two over the kitchen table, with a variety of sketches including the rest of the cast that take us from the job centre to the BBC newsroom. Although the transition from sketch to sketch is sometimes a little less than smooth, the sarcasm and irony that the play dabbles with throughout is done perfectly, with a humour that lifts the audience without undercutting the more serious messages of the play. There's a sense of camaraderie around the room as Betty takes centre stage with her hand on her hip and denounces the British government and its failure to support those who need its help the most – a charged atmosphere that is heightened by her winking audience address.

The play is accompanied by a live band, who play original music by Hugh Stewart, which can, at times, have a wonderfully poignant effect – at others, it can detract a little from the play’s momentum in the shuffling pauses of its stopping and starting. This is more frequent in the second, shorter half of the play, and can cut the rising tension a little. However, the songs are heartfelt and original, and enhance the atmosphere of comradery that the audience and actors are joined together in.

McDade is particularly superb, with some exceptionally touching monologues throughout the piece. The involvement of the chorus in many of the sketches is done with a natural ease, and the sarcasm of these sketches is well done and highly entertaining. Overall, it is a sincerely moving performance, one that reminds us of just how bad things are really getting, while simultaneously drawing on a feeling of community that can often be so easily lost at the hinges of our desperately struggling society.

Vicious @ Deaf Connections Theatre, Glasgow, run ended, more info: