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Review of Divergent Theatre’s Ripe at Matthews Yard

RipeRipe is loosely based on Margaret Attwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” which is set in a dystopian society somewhere in the future. In Ripe this is implied rather than spelt out as the plot unfolds.

Misha played by Kate Gwynn and Rachel (Rashida Amanda) have been brought to a medical facility to produce children for couples who can’t conceive – to all intent and purposes, it’s a baby farm. These are desperate women forced by circumstance to improve their lives by selling their bodies – in this case not for sex but for the capabilities of their wombs. They speak of the poor living conditions in the “sector” they live in and how successfully conceiving would mean a big payout and improved lives for their families.

Rachel has been continually overlooked as a potential mother as she’s black and when Charles Spence (Jason Plessas) and his wife Sophia (Victoria Grace) arrive to find a compatible mother, they choose newcomer Misha as they are white and so is she. The Spence’s seem to be the equivalent of royalty in this new society as they wave to unseen crowds as they arrive at the facility and are obviously very upper-class.

However, Misha is finding it hard to conceive and she’s badly bullied by a creep of a doctor played by Alexander Toll and his even creepier assistant played by Jamal Chong – they’re more like jailers than doctors- and things soon take a turn for the worse for Misha as she becomes more desperate to conceive a child for the Spence’s.

Having not read Attwood’s book, I don’t know how much Ripe has taken from the novel. However, whilst the play seems to be allegorical alluding to the subject of sex trafficking and how women are used and abused, the writing lacks an edge and at times is a little woolly. The highlight is Rachel’s rap/poem where she divulges in a monologue her innermost feelings but the rest of the dialogue overall, fails to live up to the excellence of that segment of Ripe’s somewhat episodic fifty minutes.

The performances of the cast of six are a little uneven and at times the dialogue is spoken so quickly that it’s impossible to catch what a character is saying, which is something that needs addressing before they take the play to the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer.

The play is produced by Divergent Theatre who should be congratulated for the work they’re doing providing drama workshops and clubs in schools around the country and producing their own in-house works. Ripe is written and directed by members of the cast and that might be a flaw; they probably could have done with an outside director who might have sharpened the dialogue and the performances.

As I’ve said before in other reviews, Theatre Utopia are trying to bring some exciting and innovative work to deepest Croydon and they should be applauded for that. I just think Ripe in its current form, doesn’t quite come up to their usual high standard.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Ripe is loosely based on “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this play takes place in a modern day fertility unit. Here refugees have one use, helping those couples from the capital conceive children. Run by a charming, pioneering and insightful young Doctor, treatment has a 100% track record, one way or another.

Ripe premiered at Matthews Yard, Croydon from the 13th – 15th April before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe at the end of August.


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