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  • London Role Play Director Mandy Jackson on Firebird at the Trafalgar Studios

    February 29, 2016

    Phil Davies’ Firebird is a play with guts and gore that takes us straight to the heart of the matter. Our vulnerable young are being abused and more needs to be done to protect them.

    Written in association with The Children’s Society, Firebird is born out of valuable research and observation. The play follows the story of Tia, a victim of child sexual exploitation in the town of Rochdale. Desperate for a bag of chips and some words of kindness, Tia quickly falls prey to local ‘businessman’ AJ. Davies’ script skillfully portrays the complexities of abuse. The most vulnerable are sometimes the loud and forthright, whilst the abusers can feel as insignificant as those they exploit. Defining when abuse happens is a difficult concept for those both in and looking in on the situation.

    Director Ed Hall gives us a stunning production and we are gripped from the moment that Tia explodes onto the stage. The intimate studio space at The Trafalgar helps us feel how trapped and isolated a girl like Tia can become.

    The three actors in Firebird are superb. All performances are natural and focused with the action paced at breakneck speed. Callie Cooke (Tia) and Tahira Sharif (Katie) manage to embody the 14-year-old girls that they play. We see clearly the conflicting characteristics within Tia. A sense of humour beguiling her years, streetwise, confident – then quickly childlike, feral – vulnerable. Her only friend Katie is an important contrast though no less three-dimensional. Katie’s youthful innocence is intact but with a fire in her belly that gives us hope these girls might be able to leave the abuse behind.

    Phaldut Sharma’s physical dynamism is a perfect fit for AJ. We believe that he owns his too shiny suit and squirm at the flash charm he uses to win over Tia. Sharma also plays a detective who interviews Tia following an allegation of GBH – an authentic portrayal of police suffering from a lack of resources, and yet another adult failing to care properly for the vulnerable young.

    All too often a trip to the theatre leaves us smiling politely and a little fatigued. Firebird shakes us from our lethargy to wonder what the hell just happened and what we should do next.

    The Children’s Society asks that we support their Seriously Awkward Campaign. The campaign focuses on legislation to ascertain when a relationship is abusive. We need this detail in law, and also an instinct to protect our vulnerable young needs embedding in the psyche of society.


    Firebird is playing at The Trafalgar Studios until the 19th March 2016.

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