Emma Packer is a very good actress, and the role that she adopts in this one-woman performance is played with great conviction and commitment. And authenticity. I initially thought that Miss Packer was impersonating a young black woman, but my companion, a Londoner from the West Indian community, assured me that the accent and argot had spread from young black men to young Londoners of every hue, and that Miss Packer had got it off to a tee. It is a far cry from the traditional Cockney, for which oldsters like me retain an affection.
Miss Packer takes us through the teenage years and early twenties of a working class woman in London who suffers physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her mother. There is one particularly shocking scene in which she depicts a brutal pummelling with gut-wrenching intensity. The domestic abuse is linked, however, to important events in the outside world, where abuse of the vulnerable is carried on by the rich and powerful. This linkage does not work for me. The usual suspects are lined up for condemnation : MPs who fiddle their expenses, the police who shot Jean Charles de Menezes, financiers who embezzle millions with impunity while the poor are prosecuted for pilfering. Not all Muslims, we are told, are terrorists, and immigrants should be treated with dignity. Most of these sentiments are laudable, although not everyone would agree that the arson and looting which broke out in London in August 2011 can be blamed on the despair and hopelessness experienced by young Londoners. In short, we are presented with the liberal views of the metropolitan élite, through the mouth of a working-class girl who has read a lot.
There is much to enjoy in this performance. The acting is fine, if occasionally histrionic, and the script is entirely in rhyming couplets. This works very well, often to comic effect. The message being put across does, however, strike this cynical old reviewer as rather trite. It is for the way this monologue is put across, rather than for its content, that Emma Packer’s one-woman show is to be appreciated.