Vivienne Franzmann's play Pests is about how and why young women get caught up in the criminal justice system, and the impact that drug dependency, childhood sexual abuse and associated mental illness can have on their lives.
It was commissioned by Clean Break, a theatre company committed to exploring issues surrounding women and crime, in a co-production with the Royal Court Theatre, London, and the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester. It was first performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, on 12 March 2014 before transferring to the Royal Court on 27 March 2014 and touring the UK.
The play opens with Rolly, 21, returning home, heavily pregnant, to her older sister's squalid, rats' nest of a flat, after a spell in prison. The sister, Pink, 25, is suffering from psychosis and anxiety, which she previously had medication for, but she stopped taking it while Rolly has been away. Rolly is off the heroin and determined to make a fresh start, but Pink is finding it harder to escape the past: her psychosis is linked to memories of being taken into care and abused in the home by lots of different men. Pink has a child called Tia who has been removed from her. They both have cherished memories of a childhood caravan holiday in Camber Sands, where they watched The Wizard of Oz. But while Rolly was later fostered, Pink stayed in care, and she doesn't welcome the idea of her little sister escaping the nest.
The Royal Exchange premiere was directed by Lucy Morrison and designed by Joanna Scotcher, with Frances Ashman as Rolly and Ryan Fletcher as Pink.
At the Royal Court Theatre, Rolly was played by Ellie Kendrick, and Pink by Sinead Matthews.