Jailbaby is a perfectly crafted work that intriguingly weaves unlikely characters together to reflect the inequities in the criminal justice system.
Billed as a spiritual sequel to Suzie Miller’s epic smash hit, Prima Facie, this work is less a call to arms and more a reflection of a system and society that is happy to let some take the fall so others succeed.
AJ has the world at his feet – promising soccer prospects, a Mum that is doing her best, and friends that are willing to go the extra mile for him. But he wants more and wants it now.
So when the opportunity to make quick cash for the footy trip presents itself, how can AJ resist. But soon, very quickly in fact, AJ realised that the consequences for his actions greatly outweighs any perceived benefit.
Suzie Miller’s writing is in fine form, dialing the tension high and never letting it fall til the very end. Each character is so meticulously created, each moment skillfully thought out and the world that is peeled back brims with detail and nuance.
Andrea James’ direction goes a long way to reign in the frantic chaos of the work. Every effort is made to construct a “world” for each moment and scene – confining the characters and allowing them to push against their restrictions.
Given the constant shift of characters, time and place, James’ direction would have benefited from either a larger space or a better relationship with the current set design to slow the pace and allow each character a fraction of levity.
The phenomenal ensemble of actors, Lucia Mastrantone, Anthony Taufa, Anthony Yangoyan, are utterly commanding on stage – playing an array of characters with envy inducing ease. Though the characters could easily fall into cliche, at no point do the actors drop their strength, presence and vulnerability.
Isabel Hudson, Verity Hampson and Phil Downing design a world that is so multi-layered, simple in the execution and inventively innovative that the the slightest shift in sound, set or lighting completely changes to suit where each character finds themselves.
Jailbaby is proudly able to hold its own up against Miller’s other staggeringly power works, earning every accolade and applause – all the while leaving the audience just that little bit on edge.
SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Darlinghurst
Performance: Friday 4 August 2023
Season continues to 19 August 2023
Information and Bookings: www.griffintheatre.com.au
Image: Anthony Yangoyan and Lucia Mastrantone in Jailbaby – photo by Clare Hawley
Review: Gavin Roach