Not for the faint-hearted or the closed-minded, Interval Productions’ Wretch provides a sobering look at life after homelessness. Inspired by a series of interviews conducted by Rebecca Walker at the Whitechapel mission, the piece was originally commissioned by Into the Wolf productions and toured a series of drop-in centres, night-shelters and drug rehabilitation units. Suffice to say, its early history and exposure have instilled a raw, poignant and confronting reality within the piece.
A small cast of three, Wretch tells the tale of Amy, a 27-year-old recovering addict moving into hostel accommodation. On her first night, she encounters Irena, an older Polish woman who has lived there for some time. Confronting the challenges that go hand-in- hand with starting life over again, the one-act play examines hope, dreams and the disconcerting reality that inevitably eventuates.
The on-stage chemistry between Tory Allen-Martin and Deborah Baker is easily visible. Tory Allen-Martin’s Amy is portrayed with truth and vulnerability, seamlessly flipping between the curt 27-year-old who uses humour to disarm confronting situations and the naive misguided young woman searching for a second chance. Balancing the raw and highly-charged emotional outbursts from Amy is Deborah Baker’s Irena who brings a strength and stillness to the stage. The patience and experience visible in her portrayal works to anchor the piece, maintaining its realism and sincerity. Completing the cast is Timothy O’Hara who effortlessly swaps between the roles of Josh and Mike. His performance during his final scene with Amy exudes humility and honestly, a stark contrast to her confident façade, and heartbreaking in the context of her desperation; “we should go back, we were good when we were out there”.
The music, produced by Eliza and the Bear, adds an extra dimension to the production, however it was unfortunate that Tori Allen-Martin’s stunning vocals were drowned out by the musical accompaniment. There are also several story threads that are hinted at, but not fully explored. Presumably, this is due to the infancy of the piece and something that will be further developed as the piece grows and evolves.
Despite the overarching sombre nature of the piece, there are numerous unexpected laugh-out-loud moments. This is in part due to the clever writing but also a consequence of the relatable nature of the characters. Instilling a complacency against the backdrop of what is an otherwise critical situation, the humour did not detract from the serious nature of the content, but rather strengthened our attachment to the characters and made the lows even more devastating.
Wretch presents itself as an honest and sincere look at the harsh realities of life after homelessness. Challenging and disarming, Interval productions have created something that is as raw as it is real and with huge scope for growth.
Review by Cassandra Griffin
A women’s hostel outside London, where the noise never stops but you’re always alone.
An ex-teacher and an ex-junkie, who met on a night bus during long, dark nights of homelessness. A year on, Irena has rebuilt her life. But just as she thinks she is safe, Amy crashes head-first back into it with bigger dreams for life’s second chances.
A one-act play about life after homelessness, Wretch was inspired by three months of interviews that writer Rebecca Walker conducted with vulnerably housed women at a day centre in Whitechapel. Originally commissioned by Into the Wolf Productions, Wretch completed an Arts-Council-funded tour of drop-in centres, night shelters and drug rehabilitation units in 2015, to overwhelmingly positive reviews from its audiences who shared lived experience with the play’s characters.
In an exciting new collaboration between the writer and Tori Allen Martin, creative director of Interval Productions, Wretch has been reworked into a play with songs by London-based band Eliza and the Bear. In a taut seventy minute show, three actors and a band of musicians bring the too-keenly-felt world of Amy and Irena’s hopes and delusions into brilliant, disconcerting life.
BY INTERVAL PRODUCTIONS
Musical. 8th – 12th Feb, 18:10, £15.