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Inside Bitch review at Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London – ‘gloriously disruptive’

TerriAnn Oudjar, Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph and Jade Small in Inside Bitch at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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What do shows about women in prison in popular culture look like? Orange Is the New Black. Locked Up. Bad Girls, the TV show. Bad Girls the Musical.

Inside Bitch calls bullshit on all that. It disregards the capitalist imperative that has created a myriad of shows that are funny and sexy. Inside Bitch thinks the sexiness of shows about women in prison is ridiculous: when asked about a time in prison when they laughed – really laughed – there is a deafening silence from the cast of four women.

The women are Clean Break Members Lucy Edkins, Jennifer Joseph, TerriAnn Oudjar and Jade Small – also identified by their nicknames the Artist, Muvva, Pitbull and Queenie, as emblazoned across the back of their ironically designed baby-blue boiler suits (excellent work by designer Camilla Clarke).

They have devised the piece in collaboration with artists Stacey Gregg and Deborah Pearson. In it, they dance, they rant, they listen to The Marriage of Figaro on vinyl. They sit around a table excitedly discussing how to win a popular card game. It all depends on what cards you’re dealt in life, one says. They tell us that sometimes women are put in prison for not paying their TV licence bill or because their child played truant one too many times. They laugh at the stupidity of it. They are not victims, though: they exude power.

Inside Bitch grinds hard against the rigidity of the theatre landscape. And it is glorious in all its disruptive, chaotic, provocative, fourth-wall-poking energy.

Zawe Ashton and Lucy Kirkwood among Clean Break patrons

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Exceptional comedy-drama about women in prison, made by women artists who have been to prison