Review – Clean

Mar 13 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Quick and slick

Joanna Kaczynska (Katya) Samantha Pearl (Zainab) and Nadia Clifford (Chloe) in Sabrina Mahfouz's Clean. Production photo © Play, Pie and a Pint. Traverse Theatre

Joanna Kaczynska (Katya) Samantha Pearl (Zainab) and Nadia Clifford (Chloe) in Sabrina Mahfouz’s Clean. Production photo © Play, Pie and a Pint.

Traverse Theatre: A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Tue 12 – Sat 16 March 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Classy and compelling, Sabrina Mahfouz’s fizzing three-hander slams down onto the Play, Pie and a Pint stage for a lunchtime treat of slick, sick attitude.

That’s Attitude, girl. The one with a capital ‘A’. And don’t you forget it, boy.

This is the cruel world of cool, the video-game playground which Mahfouz has reclaimed from under the noses of the boys. She re-imagines it with vibrant female characters, plenty of kick-ass action and clever crimes – but clean crimes: no mindless violence, no innocent victims.

As theatre, this is a character-driven narrative, performed on a naked stage where action is told, not shown. Mahfouz leaves her audience’s minds to fill in the wide-screen pixilations of emerald smuggling, credit card theft and share-price manipulation.

Which requires – and is given – quick-fire telling by a trio of sharply-drawn characters.

Samantha Pearl’s Zainab is young and independent although still living at home, dissing her wee brother’s old fashioned attitudes and bunging him a few quid every now and then to keep him quiet.

It’s Zainab’s biting observations which drive the story. Solo, she skims credit cards stolen from the fat, rich and powerful, and hangs out in her favourite club.

A plumb-mouthed Nadia Clifford as emerald-smuggling Chelsea girl Chloe, whose office is the same club that is Zainab’s favourite, helps round it out. While Joanna Kaczynska’s thick-accented Katya has fire in her belly – rumoured to be a result of KGB training as a child – and brings a sense of danger to it all.

International rescue with thigh-high boots and computer kicks

There’s enough of a plot to engage for this light-hearted, fearless 45 minutes. Just about, as the three clean-crime queens are forced into working together by the mysterious owner of the club. It’s international rescue with thigh-high boots and computer kicks, as they save the establishment from a predatory businessman.

What makes it all zing is Mahfouz’s poetic way with language that tingles with assonance and sharp, rhythmic staccatos.

Traverse Artistic Director, Orla O’Loughlin, choreographs this impeccably, around the three boxes on this otherwise bare stage. She perhaps doesn’t build it up to the final vicious snap of flourish that it might, in order to finish with a truly satisfying high, but she does find depths and nuance where it could easily be slight and banal.

If this was a video game, I’d play it. But no way will I be getting on the wrong side of these three.

Running time 45  mins
Run ends Saturday, 16 March 2013
Daily, 1pm.
Details on the Traverse website:

The rest of the a Play, a Pie and a Pint season:

The Commission by Steven Dick – winner of the Channel 4/ Òran Mór Comedy Drama Award
Tue 19 – Sat 23 Mar, 1pm


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