REVIEW: You Forgot The Mince (Courtyard Theatre) ★★★★

Imagine If’s latest production You forgot The Mince tells the story of a modern day abusive relationship. It’s a bleak reality for all too many, but the show is shot through with a warmth that belies the subject matter.

The hour long drama begins at a house in Leeds, where nineteen year old Rosa lives with her grandma, Lily. Niko (Prince Plockey) is a door-to-door window salesman surviving on commission. His cajoling of Rosa – by turns playful, then less so – to accept the ‘free, no obligation consultation’ is the first hint of a tendency to coercion.

What follows is the couple’s tumble into love, which is beautifully choreographed in script and movement. The mish-mash of physical theatre with verbatim and original text brings Rosa and Niko’s story to life – from the first flush, to moving in together, to the inevitable arguments about who bought the wrong cakes at the supermarket. Another time-lapse style sequence conveys Niko’s descent into jealousy and abuse. Violence is followed by blame (‘look what you made me do’) then shame (I’ll never do it again’). The cycle is real, and we’ve seen it portrayed in soap opera abuse storylines. Yet the physicality of the performances and the nuance in the writing make it all feel heartbreakingly new.

The scripting is as sharp as the performances. Francesca Joy (who also takes the lead as Rosa) has an obvious talent for creating poignancy from the ordinary, as the play’s title suggests. At one point, Rosa turns to the audience to say of Niko: ‘he doesn’t love me like grown-ups do. He loves me for real’. It’s convincing dialogue, and serves to remind us that passion and danger are easily conflated when you’re nineteen. Grandma Lily’s reminiscences about the civility of ‘courting’ in her day might look like a sensible counterweight at first, but she has demons of her own. Lily’s bottled-up pain is deftly played by Ursula Mohan.

It’s clear that You forgot the mince is forged from the grit of real-life. Joy has experienced abuse herself, and spent time in refuges and prisons as part of her research. The play will tour prisons across the country in the autumn. That a fast-moving, 60 minute piece manages to capture the creeping nature of relationship abuse – and its legacy – through characters you are invested in, is a feat. Joy says she hopes the play will inspire change, and there’s no doubt it can, if it gets the audience it deserves.

Reviewed by April Delaney