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Scarlet at Southwark Playhouse

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 18th Apr 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood


Now famous as Poldark’s tightly corseted and repressed former love Elizabeth, Heida Reed is seen in a completely different light in Sam H Freeman’s first full length play.

The award-winning playwright who was part of the Lyric and Royal Court Young Writers’ programme, has chosen for his subject, Scarlet, a girl who likes sex.


Image courtesy of Southwark Playhouse 

But after a drunken night out a video of her being sexually abused by a gang of boys goes viral and her life and her relationships fall apart.

It’s a thought-provoking play highlighting the White Ribbon Campaign which works towards ending men’s violence against women, so perhaps it’s not so different for Reed who, in Poldark, is abused and betrayed by her husband Francis. However, her dealing of the abuse is completely different.

In sharp contrast to her pent-up portrayal of Elizabeth, Reed is one of four actresses who play the title role, sometimes together, sometimes separately, as well as all the other characters, including men, which came into Scarlet’s life. Their audience first see them, as Scarlet, lounging on a mattress in various stages of undress; at one point Reed is seen to put on tights over her underwear. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Neither does what follows.

Being famous as Reed now is could have been a double-edged sword. No doubt, because of Poldark’s popularity, people will come just to see her – which could have been unfair on her fellow performers. However, they more than hold their own with some highly emotive performances.

Like all tragedies there is a fair amount of humour, mostly from Lucy Kilpatrick’s portrayal of Will, of whom Scarlet says, ‘his face looks a little bit like he might be inbred. And he smells like a farm’. He is the villain of the piece, who uploads the video onto FaceBook when she rejects him and later attacks her in his locked flat. So he’s not nice, but Kilpatrick’s facial expressions are hilarious. In sharp contrast, the scene where, as Scarlet, she shouts and cries outside her boyfriend Dan’s flat, pleading for him to take her back, is heart rending and violent in its intensity; an unleashed, raw piece of acting.

Jade Ogugua, who sometimes plays Scarlet’s boyfriend Dan, has perhaps the most stage presence throughout while Asha Reid, as Scarlet’s northern flatmate Sasha, though looking the most unconventional, comes over as sensible and warm-hearted. On the other hand, Reed plays her characters, especially Dan’s flatmate Amanda, as girly and shallow, again in sharp contrast to Elizabeth’s deep passion.

With so many characters merging into each other it is not always easy to define them; the subject matter is not for the feint-hearted and, despite the White Ribbon Campaign, Scarlet is not blameless. Young girls who get drunk and sleep around be warned!

Scarlet is at Southwark Playhouse until May 9

Box Office: 020 7407 0234



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