In order of appearance
Sylvia ‘Bodybag’ Hollamby – Deb Marsh
Rachel Hicks – Katie Mead
Helen Stewart – Karen Warncken
Shell Dockley – Stevie Doherty-Hall
Crystal Gordon – Helga Kilroy
Denny Blood – Katie Saunders
Julie Saunders – Sarah Randall
Julie Johnston – Joce Johnson
Nikki Wade – Melissa Guest
Spike – Maddie Parker
Prison Officer – Lynn Guyton
Jim Fenner – Paul Johnson
Justin Mattison – Tom Richards
The Number One – Dave Wright
Noreen Biggs – Sarah Wiggins
Yvonne Atkins – Michelle Jimenez-Alder
Prison Officers (Riot Squad) –
Michael Doe, Katie Mead
Keyboard 1: Chris Redman
Keyboard 2: Paul Stephenson
Bass: Ryan Cowell
Drums: Michael Bazzoni
Bad Girls Review:
The creative team behind 2015’s superb production of Rent return to Harlow Theatre Company with their production of Bad Girls: The Musical. Based on the popular ITV prison drama, we are given a snapshot of Larkhall Prison as new inmate Rachel Hicks falls foul to the overbearing sexual exploitation of PO Jim Fenner. After a tragic turn of events, the prisoners revolt against the regime before coming up with a plan to ensure justice is served on the despicable Fenner.
The production has a strong ensemble cast. Melissa Guest puts in a strong and emotional performance as Nikki Wade, who falls in love with Prison Governor, Helen Stewart – the only real voice of support for the prisoners – who is played with consideration and delicacy by Karen Warncken.
Sarah Randall and Joce Johnson combine to provide a lot of the comedy to show as a pair of prostitues who both change their names to Julie and dress identically. They show off the strength of their double act in Life of Grime and All Banged Up – the later of which shows off some of Paul Tarling’s best choreography in the show.
Randall’s rendition of Sorry is heartbreakingly devastating. It arrives at the point in the show where you, rather guiltily, start to wriggle down into your seat, but forces you to sit up and take note with its emotional honesty and sheer grip.
Strong turns also come from Stevie Doherty-Hall and Michelle Jiminez-Alder who both bring some real strong energy to the piece. Sarah Wiggins comes in with some really quirky one liners, but these often feel a bit lost in the general direction in which the show has been given.
The show, though, is stolen every time that Paul Johnson steps onto the stage. His despicable Jim Fenner is loathed and despised by prisoners, and should be by the audience. Yet his fantastic numbers, carefully delivered humour turn him into Larkhall’s own Richard III: every time he’s off the stage, you just want more and more.
A hardworking cast in voice and performance are let down quite often though by overlong, and clunky scene changes. At one point in the second half, it was audible that audience members were laughing at these as they stunted the pace and progression as things were reaching their climax. There were some real moments of fantastic moments delivered by Jody Randall’s direction, especially in the smaller scenes with Guest and Warncken, but at times it felt flat and a real authenticity about the relationships was lost.
Although some clever effects were created through the lighting, at times it felt a bit lazy as we were transported from one part of the prison to another via a series of snap blackouts. The actual motif of the bars at the opening of the show though was interesting and a lovely image to enter the prison with. If only this continued throughout.
The real strength of this show comes in its ensemble: when all of the prisoners join together, they show they can take on those who rubbish them, and prove they do have something worth going on for, each other. This follows into the vocals, with some strong harmonies and really fun ensemble numbers from Chris Redman’s musical direction.
This was a light hearted show which worked nicely as the next chapter of HTC’s musical progression, which didn’t take itself too seriously, but gave the opportunity for a hardworking ensemble and for some really strong individual performances to emerge from what sometimes felt a bit overly fussy.
Director – Jody Randall
Musical Director – Chris Redman
Choreographers – Paul Tarling & Sara Green
Production Manager – James Miller
Stage Manager – Sam Stevens
Lighting Design – Mike Penketh
Sound Design & Op – John & Jane Mann
Set Design & Construction –Brett Stevens
Set Construction – Stephen Dove, Barry Bowen, Sara Green
Lighting Op – Claire Klyn
Assistant Stage Manager – Leo Appleton
Costumes – Alyssa Upton, Alizon Paveley and Big Broad Productions
Props – Maria Warner & Big Broad Productions
Props Build – Chris Guyton
Marketing – Jody Randall & Melissa Guest
Poster Design – Paul Johnson
Special Thanks to Alandale for providing and erecting the scaffolding. Passmores Academy and Harlow College for the loan of furniture.