Runs from 12 November – 7 December, Tues – Sat 7.45pm, Sun 5pm.

Theatre 503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW

Website: Box Office Tickets 0207 9787 040

4 stars


Performed within the intimate surroundings of theatre503, Sam Potter's debut play Mucky Kid bursts forth with a deluge of emotion of truly monstrous proportions, in a story fit for the hysteria of our tabloid press age.

It's no mean feat to make a play about a child killer -  who escapes prison for a weekend of debauchery - by turns touching and funny. Yet, this cleverly written, darkly comedic and engaging post-modern horror achieves just that, calling to light the most unsettling aspects of human nature and family dysfunction, whilst taking a few well aimed pot shots at societal notions of institutional rehabilitation along the way.

It's an overwhelming experience at times, but the telling of life the of child-killer Maggie Radcliffe is one of supreme emotional conflict, and its watching is not intended to be an easy one. It makes for gripping viewing precisely because it is a little too close for comfort, echoing as it does the real life stories of notorious child -killers Mary Bell and Jon Venables.

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Figure 1.  Sonya Cassidy as Maggie, creditOscar Blustin

In other hands, the whole thing could so easily fall distastefully flat, but Sonya Cassidy brings such a dizzying breadth of emotionality to her role as Maggie that you stay anchored to her performance throughout the various twists and turns of plot. She is joined by an equally strong support cast, Pamela Dwyer (best friend and love interest Naomi), Adam Loxley and Rob Witcomb (backwater country bumpkins) who all act as accessories to Maggie's weekend of hedonistic abandon in that most salubrious of British sea side resorts, Great Yarmouth. They also play interchangeable roles as Maggie's therapist and prison guard, each enactment bringing a different layer of emotional nuance to our understanding of Maggie's plight.

The play charts Maggie's path to redemption through the maze of a weekend of self-discovery in the outside world, one filled with the excitement of sex, drugs and alcohol, which she recounts in vivid detail to her prison councillor upon her return. There are multiple enacted re-tellings of the same scenes, each revealing a different emotional layer, indicating what she chooses to reveal in her quest for self-realisation. Truth and lies, fact and fiction, blend to mirror the chaos of her mental state, through scenes which flit between manic frivolity, self deception and moments of agonised remorse. The play elicits both empathy and disgust as the plot deftly twists and turns upon itself through fractured recollections and traumatic flashbacks.

Through this we learn of her psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of her family, and how her attempts at rehabilitation have been set against the pressures of press and institutional vilification, that have so long marred her life. As the psychology of Maggie reveals itself, the whole play feels like a desperate confession unravelling through multiple scenes,with each splintered re-telling building an overarching sense that something catastrophic is about to happen. It doesn't help that the set's minimalist cellophane wrapping puts one in mind of a crime scene investigation tent.

Like an ominous apparition from her past, a young girl Paige slips in and out of the shadows of the stage throughout the performance. When the two met half way through, it produced for me what was the most well acted and gently sinister scene. Serena Mantegghi is superb as the doleful, unwitting Paige. The pace slows as Maggie entices the young girl to play, leaving you unsure whether to sympathise with her for attempting to recapture the innocence of her youth, or if we are being emotionally duped. Maybe she's about to commit the same crime again. I had to shift awkwardly in my seat. Little in the play is predictable and that is one of it's key strengths.

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Figure 2  RobWhitcomb, AdamLoxley, Sonya Cassidy,Pamela Dwyer. Credit Oscar Blustin.

Maggie's various dalliances with the devil culminate, not in psychotic abandon, though she certainly nears it, but with her handing herself in. In a moment of lucid self awareness with her councillor, comes with the acute realisation that even as an adult she is forever morally culpable for her crime as a child. She finally stops trying to escape her past, and instead reconciles her view of herself with the view of those who will forever define her as Maggie Radcliffe the child killer. It is a judgement and horror she can ever escape. Whether she deserves to is not easily answerable, but it reflects wider questions on the nature of redemption and rehabilitation in a culture that is quick to make value judgements.

An intense, well written and cleverly structured play which investigates some difficult questions about the nature of forgiveness.