Pros: A hard hitting script that helps a talented cast to flourish.
Cons: The disturbing storyline doesn’t make for comfortable or pleasant viewing.
So what to do on a Sunday evening? A play about the sexual exploitation of children wasn’t quite what I had in mind; but surmised any production staged by the excellent Southwark Playhouse must have something going for it. So it proved as Child Z tells the harrowing story of Zoe, a girl trapped at the centre of a child grooming ring. There are two protagonists on opposite sides of the equation: Sonia, a support worker who tries in vain to help Zoe; and Roy, a council official who chooses commercial expediency over child protection.
The play closely mirrors the Rochdale child grooming scandal and gives the story a frightening edge of topical reality. Not a second of the ninety minute presentation was wasted as the story unfurled at a steady pace. Emma Fisher was excellent as the appallingly damaged Zoe and skilfully related her story, taking on the roles of invisible characters including her mother, baby brother and grandmother. Paul Trussell was assured as the slimy calculating Roy, whose only real worry was how allegations might affect council contracts. Claire Louise Amias completed the three piece ensemble cast and was a solid presence throughout as Sonia, the world weary support worker despairing at the intransigence of those in power.
Key junctures in the play were interspersed with recorded conversations of police interviews with Zoe, which revealed their reluctance to treat her as a credible witness. The script cleverly manages to avoid explicit portrayal of the abuse suffered by Zoe, but leaves the viewer in no doubt as to how she suffered. Similarly, her assailants are confined to the script and have no physical presence on stage; which allows the story to concentrate on the victims.
Child Z is a well written piece that gives an articulate voice to the countless victims of sexual abuse. It reminds us that too much power lies in the hands of too few people who are quick to look the other way when confronted with an inconvenient truth. The cast were excellent and carried the story with ease; but I was left thinking what the purpose was in staging the play in the first instance? It tells us nothing we didn’t already know and only compounds the anger and disbelief we all feel. Is this something we really need to see on stage?
Author: Sarah Hehir
Director: Suzette Coon
Producer: Little Pieces of Gold
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking Link: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/