Trafalgar Studios 2, London – until 19 March 2016
Firebird marks Phil Davies’ first full-length play and he has undoubtedly cast extremely well for his cleverly crafted script. Making her professional debut when it was at Hampstead Downstairs, Callie Cooke reprises her role as Tia, a vulnerable teenager who has been in care since she was three. The opening scenes show Cooke in a wheelchair clearly having had an accident, talking to her friend Katie, played by Tahirah Sharif. Sharif is the reverse of Cooke’s character as she appears confident and talks of a loving family.
It becomes abundantly clear that Cooke has experienced something truly horrific and as the short seventy-five minute play unfolds we gain an understanding of what the recent events have been like for her. One night she ends her evening at a local kebab house, enter AJ played by Phadlut Sharma. Sharma’s character to Cooke appears flashy, wealthy and inviting. She yearns to be loved or at the very least to be noticed and taken care of, but what price does this fourteen-year-old girl pay for just a few short moments of happiness.
As the picture above shows Cooke is held captive, forced to provide sexual acts, before finally attempting to escape her captors. The play and the three actors, carefully directed by Edward Hall of expertly extract the perfect feelings from the audience. From loathing Sharma’s character, to the need to rescue and protect Cooke, it is all in abundance here, in sheer outstanding performances.
For someone fresh out of drama school to take on this immensely complex characterisation and to deliver a truly jaw-dropping performance as Callie Cooke does here, it is inspiring to see such talent. I for one will be watching for news of her next role with interest.
The play itself demonstrates such depravity and realism, it is immensely uncomfortable and outright excruciatingly painful to watch at times. There were a couple of points at the height of the story, that were so high energy and the delivery so emphatic that I felt this could dilute the poignancy of the moment. It’s safe to ask, did I enjoy this play due to its content and I would answer no I did not. However do I think it’s an important, thought challenging, highly relevant and absorbing piece that warrants great audiences – yes I absolutely do.
Firebird- West End until 19th March 2016
By Caroline Hanks-Farmer