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Jailbaby - Griffin Theatre Company (NSW)

Written by Suzie Miller. Directed by Andrea James.


Reviewed by Justin Clarke

SBW Stables Theatre, Darlinghurst

4th-21st January, 2024


Note: This review makes reference to sexual assault. 


The return of Suzie Miller's brutal, yet vitally important, spiritual sequel to 'Prima Facie' proves it to be a tale that still needs to be told.


Suzie Miller currently stands out as a prominent figure in Sydney's playwriting scene. Hot off her awards tour for the Olivier Award Winning Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer, Miller has debuted new pieces of work to rave reviews in Sydney, including RBG: Of Many, One for Sydney Theatre Company, and Jailbaby for Griffin Theatre Company in 2023. It’s therefore no surprise that both RBG and Jailbaby are making a return season in 2024, beckoning both new and returning audiences to experience her insightful, yet trenchant critiques of the justice system.


Jailbaby is noted as Miller’s spiritual sequel to Prima Facie. Where the latter focused on the depth of clarity needed to secure a conviction in sexual assault cases, the former explores the brutality within the jail system and how the law fails to protect those most vulnerable before entering such a system. With Jailbaby, Miller positions us to question how much property is worth in our systems of living. Is a new flat-screen TV worth the rape and abuse of a perpetrator within prison walls? What are the ongoing effects and trauma placed on these individuals in order to make us “feel safer” at night, and is this the cause for such people to reoffend?


Cast of Jailbaby at Griffin Theatre. Images by Clare Hawley


AJ (Anthony Yangoyan) is young boy, just turning eighteen, who has found himself in with the wrong crowd. Following a botched house robbery, AJ shoulders the blame and subsequent convictions, becoming a 'jailbaby'—a commodity in the unspoken bartering system behind prison walls - a system that in itself, is never prosecuted.


Director Andrea James manoeuvres the three performers, Yangoyan, Lucia Mastrantone and Anthony Taufa masterfully to take on the roles of AJ’s story throughout. From police officers, violent cellmates, the victims - Mrs & Mr Rawlins and son, Seth - James ensures a fluid experience for the audience. 


Coupled with Isabel Hudson’s set design, utilising a glazed backstage for holding cells and interrogation rooms, Verity Hampson’s lighting design is purposefully isolating and ominously foreboding. James uses all of this to hone in on Miller’s words, intrinsically sparking the audience’s imagination to picture the violent instances imposed upon AJ, as well as the suffocating jail cells he finds himself in.


It’s a tale that deserves to be told as Miller continues to expose flaws in our justice system.

Yangoyan offers a brutal performance, as he takes on the double roles of AJ and the younger Seth Rawlins. The culmination of their stories comes to a head in the final scenes of Jailbaby, offering a brutal realisation of trauma and injustice. 


Mastrantone and Taufa superbly embody characters of different emotional heft. From Taufa’s intimidating presence in the jail, puckering kisses and inflicting brutal fight choreography, to Mastrantone’s overworked lawyer and regretful mother and victim, Mrs Rawlins, both offer depth and honesty to portray the parallel stories taking place.


Jailbaby itself is a brutal tale, one that requires a warning beforehand - provided by the generous Griffin Theatre staff - and one that may deter audiences from taking a chance on this type of tale in these bright summer days. But nonetheless, it’s a tale that deserves to be told as Miller continues to expose flaws in our justice system, compelling us to question how, as a society, we find solace in the knowledge of what transpires behind cell doors in exchange for the safety of our own lives and, more specifically, our property.


 

Jailbaby - Griffin Theatre Company

CAST & CREATIVES

Director Andrea James

Set & Costume Designer Isabel Hudson

Lighting Designer Verity Hampson

Composer & Sound Designer Phil Downing

Intimacy and Consent Consultant Bayley Turner

Fight Choreographer Tim Dashwood

Stage Manager Madelaine Osborn

With Lucia Mastrantone, Anthony Taufa, Anthony Yangoyan


Venue SBW Stables Theatre

Previews 4 – 5 January

Opening Night 6 January

Season 7 – 21 January

Performance TimesTuesday – Friday 7.30pm

Saturday* 3pm & 7.30pm

Sunday 1pm & 5.30pm (*Please note there are no performances on Saturday 13 January)

Captioned Performance Tuesday 16 January

Run Time 90 minutes (no interval)




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