Monday, June 17

Betsy: Wisdom Of A Brighton Whore

- June 1, 2019

What a way to end my Brighton Fringe 2019 experience. This incredible piece of writing by Jonathan Brown is the confirmation that the fringe is the place for new theatre and talent. Betsy is a heartbreaking creation, a creature of stark contrasts fighting to survive in a cruel world that sees her as a worthless chattel rather than a human being. Her story is bleak, bitter and relentlessly hard, only relieved by moments of incredible tenderness.

At 90 minutes this one woman drama is a feat of almost unbelievable measure. But to dwell on that feat of learning and endurance is to not give due praise to the heart of this work, and at the heart is actor Isabella McCarthy Sommerville. From the flickering candlelit cellars of the Old Ship Hotel she emerges, pulling on her draws, lacing her boots and then confronting her audience. It’s a terrifying explosion of anger, she challenges the audience, questioning our right to judge her with words that in so many ways ring true. It’s uncomfortable theatre, the kind that makes you shift in your seat as she makes bold and aggressive eye contact with those of us in the front rows.

Betsy is brittle but strong, and as she tells her story and recalls her past she offers a disturbing picture of the life of an abandoned child in the hands of the workhouse and nuns and finally those men rich enough to exploit her, not only physically but emotionally too.

This exquisite performance is colourful, unrelenting and at times brutal. The characters portrayed along the way are brilliantly realised, the sense of place tangible, the stench of poverty balanced by the sweet scent of privilege becomes real in our minds. So too the explicit raw sexuality and the degrading violence – it’s totally shocking and often repellent but despite that this is utterly compelling theatre of the highest order and deserving of a much wider audience. This is the kind of work that should remind us all of the real need for live theatre. Why do I only have five stars to award, this deserves so much more!

Old Ship Cellars

31 May

Andrew Kay

Rating: ★★★★★


Related Topics:


Related articles


Leave a Comment