boostersBoosters is a merciless critique of the British justice system and its considerable pitfalls. Through a combination of story telling and poignant real life recordings of victims and convicts, Aine Smith weaves truth with fiction artfully to present a frank discussion on how the prison system often does more to create criminals than rehabilitate them.

Juxtaposing the normality of every day life with the brutal reality of prison, Smith stands clutching her teddy bear and reenacts the events that put her character behind bars. She also adopts the roles of police officers, paramedics, families and victims, tackling the issues from a variety of angles. It’s all pieced together skillfully and meaningfully, with some powerful and disturbing moments.

No aspect of the judicial system is safe from Smith’s bitter tongue – a bitterness that comes from personal experience. From the way current treatment of offenders could in fact be a hindrance more than a help – “If we say they aren’t human, why should they behave like one?” – to the system’s failure to help with the reintroduction of ex-convicts back into society, the piece is brimming with hurt and resentment.

Boosters also deals with the gross misconceptions towards drug addiction, mental illness and trauma, and how they could lead to the incarceration of someone who could really just do with some care and attention. It tackles getting back on your feet after prison, where everyday things like getting a job and reconnecting with friends become mammoth, nigh-on impossible tasks.

It’s a little too understated at times; what might have made the piece more vivid is a visual addition or two – some more props or projected images, maybe. The piece is also perhaps slightly stiff in terms of movement and there could have been a more liberal use of the space, but Smith is a captivating storyteller and makes some compelling arguments with the most subtle of gestures.

Boosters plays at ZOO until 25 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.