Libby McArthur draws on a true story from her own past, when she was arrested and sentenced to prison for non-payment of parking tickets, for In for a Penny, her one-woman show scripted by David Cosgrove.
The framing of it all – the rude awakening of appearing in court, being recognised as a soap star “aff the telly” by her cellmates and then telling them of how she got there, is deftly handled in Cosgrove’s script. How much blurring there is between fiction and fact doesn’t really matter – as McArthur says, the reality of a memory is altered by the act of remembering it – the truth of the show lies in the characters in it.
At its heart are McArthur’s hugely entertaining but sympathetic portrayals of the women she met in the holding cell before her appearance in court. Women caught in a system which is singularly unfit for purpose as it penalises being poor, imprisons the unwell and institutionalises those already failed by institutions.
Amusing and light-heartedly anecdotal though this might be, by putting herself in the cell McArthur provides a perspective on poverty that carries much more political clout than any well-meaning thesis.