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26 March 2018

Daniella Harrison feels short-changed by Hatch

“I’ll be right where you left me.”

Sarah Carton’s one-woman show Hatch tells the story of a young woman, Jess, who we meet in her prison cell. She has been sent to prison for possession of her boyfriend’s drugs. The boyfriend in question doesn’t tell the police they’re his drugs, and leaves her completely on her own.

Then there’s the hatch. The small window in her cell door. The small gap which the (sexually abusive) guard looks through as she changes. The gap which we, as the audience I guess, are also looking through.

Described as a "developing gig theatre project", Hatch is an exploration of women’s experiences in prison. The show sees Jess alternate between performing original songs and delivering spoken word pieces. Carton is engaging as a performer; her face is always telling a story and her nervous hiccup of a laugh makes us feel at ease. It’s not genteel, however. The songs are loud and piercing and her vocals are haunting. There’s a particularly memorable spoken word segment about turmeric which she really enunciates, spitting words out at her audience, holding us captivated.

Carton has a gorgeous voice, no doubt about that. She croons 'Right Where You Left Me’ at the beginning and end of the show. Unfortunately, the piece as a whole doesn’t seem to gel right. It feels more about loneliness than a woman’s experience in prison, meaning the setting could be switched to a bedroom and the narrative could still have worked. I craved more. I wanted to go on a journey with Jess, to have one moment of conflict or crisis. Instead, the piece stays in one place emotionally, and potential conflicts - such as Jess speaking about suicidal thoughts, or mentioning the guard - seem brushed over. A little more exploration of the prison setting could have enhanced what currently feels like a (wonderful) album performance.

There are, however, some beautiful moments. There’s a haunting moment where Jess sings whilst cocooning herself in her grey hoodie, slowly crouching on the floor. She slips away so that only the ghost of her voice is left.