“Key Change” began its life at a small women’s theatre group, “Open Clasp” in Durham, UK.
The group worked with women in prison, helping them to develop their stories and produce a play to perform to male prisoners and perhaps a public show. The play was such a success that it began touring the country, including a turn at The Edinburgh Festival where it won the prestigious Carol Tambor Award and received a three week run on Broadway. Since then it’s become something of a phenomenon.
The West Coast premiere of this incredible show is currently to be seen at the lovely Secret Rose theatre in Noho, produced by the brilliant people at The Collective Studio LA.
Of course taking on a very English play, not Shakespeare, more Reservoir Dogs but with heart, is quite an undertaking. They thankfully and very cleverly have created a US version, but without pandering to the language differences, for which, as a Brit, I am extremely grateful. The characters are beautifully and touchingly recreated as American women, a little rough around the edges, tough yet playful, enduring and iconic sure, but also thoroughly recognizable as our sisters, our friends, our neighbors. I think for me that is one of the many things about this play that makes it so powerful, that we can see ourselves completely in these four quite distinct, achingly and vividly portrayed women.
The staging is electric, there is a rhythm and a choreography to it, like a dance or a highly complex fight. The precision of this is perfect and takes nothing away from the stories that unfold. Set in a prison the story jumps around in time between the beginning, a fight, their hilarious descriptions of life in prison, the women’s stories and the end, the same fight.
The women’s own “before” lives are gradually told too, while we witness their frustration at the predicaments and the injustices that befall them.
They are comically honest about their own bad choices and wrong turns, but the common links of drugs, abuse and neglect are clear to see.
In these days of #METOO and #TIMESUP let us not forget our sisters whose lives have often been more affected and more routinely ruined than any of us. These strong yet wounded women, whose misfortunes and mistakes just never seem to let them be, need our understanding, our empathy and most of all our support. This incredible work, performed exquisitely by these absolutely brilliant and inspiring actors is such a joy, which seems an odd thing to say perhaps given the subject matter, but it is joyful. Joyful in the sense that these stories are told not to incur sympathy, but hope, not to bring us sadness but to make us laugh and connect and find our own stories within theirs.
This is a powerful and poetic glimpse into a world that many of us are fortunate enough to never see, but one that we must not ignore or forget.
When so many women are locked up because they were abused and beaten and fell victim to their forced circumstances, opportunities like “Key Change” offer us a moment to really “see” them and perhaps that will lead to change.
I highly recommend “Key Change” at the Secret Rose Theatre. It’s a perilously short run…so don’t dawdle. Brilliant direction by Samantha Lavin.
Written by Catrina McHugh
Directed by Samantha Levin
Sarah Navratil (Stargate Origins), Maryfrances Careccia (How to Get Away with Murder) as Angie, Courtney Nichole (Snowfall) as Kim, Bridget Garwood as Kelly, and Anita Davenport as Lorraine.
Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 West Magnolia Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 91601.