In a sure and powerful solo performance from Maddie Rice, Villain tells the story of Rachel – who, after a not unusual route from graduate to first job, grows tired of the novelty of being able to buy stuff she wants, and finds herself looking for more from life than a career in sales can provide. A few years on from Uni, she wants something more meaningful, more purposeful, and lands a job as a social worker. Unfortunately, her mission to make a difference in the lives of her clients leads to an unnatural vilification in the media. Her own life will never be the same.
Bruised Sky Productions aim to ‘make raw, passionate, truthful work… with no limits’. Here writer Martin Murphy has investigated the back story of a social worker involved in a high-profile child protection case (inevitably Baby P comes to mind). In doing so, he gives an important voice to professionals who, without warning, find their names and pictures emblazoned across front pages accompanied by hostile headlines. Murphy has reportedly witnessed similar scenarios close to home.
Rachel makes the point on stage that, in neglect or abuse cases, the legal prohibition on printing the names of victims and families does not extend to professionals like her. Yet she only ever wanted to make a difference. Perhaps the signs of neglect were there, she says… but then really, no they weren’t, at least not so she could be sure enough to take action against the family she’s involved herself with.
Rice is a compelling performer. She brings humour as the younger more carefree Rachel, and easily achieves a portrayal of the horror of the hunted Rachel as well. Her timing is excellent as she switches tempo between revelations, pausing to allow poignant observations on her plight, all too familiar these days, to land with the audience.
The show carries a serious message, but it isn’t heavy work; Rice entertains. She is engaging – and Rachel’s observations are relevant and necessary, sure to inspire thoughtful conversations afterwards.