Seventeen-year-old Paul Smith’s new play delivers a sobering fist in the guts with exceptional simplicity and clarity of purpose. Its subject matter is a young girl caught in a cycle of abuse at the hands of her father, and its target is complacency. Locked in a room littered with cuddly toys she has arranged into poses of affection and violence, she tunes into the airwaves of her CB radio in search of other human contact. Through the interference she at last finds the friendly voice of a cab driver.
Smith has delicately crafted this relationship, which revolves around the cabbie’s genuine desire to help but also unwittingly manipulates the sexuality of a young girl confused by her father’s lies. The result is 35 minutes of tense drama, in which the voice of kindness tantalises both the girl and the audience with the chance of rescue. However, no sentimental panacea is offered by this young writer. A voice of kindness communicated by radio waves has no power to help, and we are left with the bare fact of the modern age: in a global technological village everyone is alone.
The males voices are essentially cyphers for aggression and sympathy rather than fully-drawn characters, and it is between these two forces that Julie Smith charts her portrayal of the young girl. This young actress plays with an assurance and charm that would put many old pros to shame. She is blessed with a rare naturalness on stage that allows the audience to be completely convinced, and it is this which holds the production together. The writing requires empathy for the play to deliver its shock, and this Julie Smith deftly accomplishes.
The piece is produced by On Air Theatre Company, the theatrical wing of Independent Drama Radio, and the translation from radio to theatre is a largely successful one. By presenting the girl’s room in theatrical reality, the focus is thrown firmly onto the injustice of the girl’s plight. It is to be hoped that Paul Smith’s taut dialogue and Julie Smith’s undoubted acting talent will combine again in the near future.