New York | 1h 0m | Already closed

Key Change

From 18 critic and 26 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Must see

About the show

Britain's Open Clasp Theatre Company presents this award-winning piece of theatre devised by actual female prisoners about their lives in a raw and illuminating portrait. More…

Open Clasp were originally commissioned by Dilly Arts, an arts development company specialising in working with people in prison, to work with women in HMPYOI Low Newton as part of a larger project working with male and female offenders. Open Clasp worked with the women to enable them to tell their stories, and devise and rehearse a new piece of theatre. 'Key Change' is the result of those collaborations.

1h 0m | Already closed | 4th Street Theatre (East Village)


"A moving and highly theatrical kaleidoscopic factual drama that makes a great impact in one hour. Playwright Catrina McHugh has crafted a richly detailed confessional examination of four women’s lives that are told with fierce candor and biting humor...The pace is fast and vibrantly conveys the emotions of the characters’ situations...With its strong writing, masterful presentation and intense performances, 'Key Change' is an excellent work of social consciousness theater." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"All of the performances are rough, bloody and believable...Within the cast, amid poetic form, physical theater, considerable comedy and the rasp of straight talking, real tears are shed. A statement of 'It's my last time' by a repeat offender is as funny as it is tragic. The notion of a happy ending sends itself up, but crucially, it is not without hope. Throughout, 'Key Change' is a well-crafted, sensitively directed and impressively performed piece of theater." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"These powerful performers understand the value of detailed, fearless acting...If it's the carefully woven fabric of voices and stories that makes this a punch-strong show or if it is the fact that it is delivered carefully through equally powerful moments of comedy, completely earned lyricism and precise timing—applause here again to Lindow—that makes 'Key Change' a much needed piece of theatre, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that this exists...A must-see play." Full Review

The New York Times

"A moving, intimate and superbly acted drama about women’s lives in a British prison...The production is aptly spare and simple...The dialogue is crisp, minimal and overlapping...Among its other virtues, 'Key Change' resists sentimentality, although there are some touching passages." Full Review


"The director shepherded the cast’s adroit and heartfelt performances and configured them into an artistic, living piece. It is a work of poetic symmetry with wisps of song, music and movement spun into a dramatic event that Open Clasp hoped would resonate especially among the incarcerated…'Key Change' is powerful in its performances and in its edgy content culled from truth. Its visceral truths are stark and real." Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

"Emotionally powerful and often deeply moving, the piece perhaps succeeds better at its educational, and undoubtedly more important, task. The urgency of these women’s stories, and the common threads that underlie the paths they took to prison shine through...In front of a New York audience, some of the stories don’t quite pack the punch of recognition they might in the UK; the unfamiliar slang, not to mention the fact that all the inmates are white, adds a definite distance. " Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"There are many striking moments; you could say that 'Key Change' is constructed of nothing but...'Key Change' also powerfully delineates the grim facts of life behind bars...In the end, however, 'Key Change' remains a piece that, for all its harrowingly rendered observations, exists mostly as a kind of tract, an argument designed to enlighten others. It certainly performs that task, even as one leaves the theatre wishing one had seen a real play." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"There’s no single story or character to latch onto...and, despite its brevity, ‘Key Change’ finds it hard to sustain the kind of interest in what comes next that might have prevented the boredom that ultimately ensues...‘Key Change’ is an example of talented artists engaged in the theatre of good intentions, confronting an important social issue and hitting lots of worthy buttons but lacking the dramatic structure necessary to free it from its self-imposed confinement." Full Review

New York Theater

"It felt like an hour-long series of theater games and exercises...Some of them work fine, taken individually...But all the noodling around, especially a pile-on of staccato group dialogue and quick little scenes undermines our ability to discern the individuality of the main characters. The result overall is a feeling that the professional theater makers devised this play, and the women in prison were not given control over their own stories." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production "'Key Change' is notable for being neither sentimental nor in your face, yet refusing to duck the issues. In so doing it becomes a potent lesson in theatremaking for its total fusion of message with audience." Full Review

Total Theater

for a previous production "This deeply affecting ensemble production made me think about female prisoners in a significantly different light...Under Laura Lindow’s precise and captivating direction, Catrina McHugh’s hard-hitting script highlights the shared experiences of these vulnerable women, often in highly amusing and unexpected ways." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production "The voices are of the women themselves, often raw, always heartfelt and sometimes singing with an everyday poetry as if the devising process had unlocked a waterfall of creativity...The show snakes back on itself in surprising ways so that we question our initial reactions: a violent opening scene is repeated, but this time with context." Full Review

Wow 24/7 (UK)

for a previous production "This is a tale told with kinetic honesty and tightly controlled tenderness...The actors shine, whether ripping each other to bits in sharply humorous Geordie tones or slipping into short but spine-tingling balletic sequences...The incidents are touched on chillingly but not dwelled on in the piece...Yet there is humour and humanity here too, and the slow, heart-crushing poignancy of trying to mother failing children from afar when the phones don’t even work." Full Review

Herald Scotland

for a previous production The tone is set for a searingly honest study of life...Fused throughout with an often furiously choreographed physicality, putting the action in a women's prison gives things a heightened poignancy, and using the real life devising process as a framing device is inspired in a heartbreaking portrait of women in confinement that's full of wit, anger, muscle, guts and a heart that beats with what it means to be free." Full Review

The Skinny (UK)

for a previous production "The standout production, is devised by inmates of a women’s prison, giving them an uninterrupted voice to tell their stories. The humility with which Open Clasp Theatre Company and writer Catrina McHugh approached the project is evident and allows the five actors to thrive on the script’s wit and honesty, hilarious and savage by turns, but always refreshing." Full Review

The Observer

for a previous production "A remarkable production by all-female theatre company...'Key Change' is a rare and surprisingly funny piece of theatre that presents the stories of domestic and sexual abuse that all too often lead vulnerable women into lives of crime." Full Review

Fest (UK)

for a previous production "'Key Change' never quite resolves its issues. What it does do brilliantly is evoke the jagged texture of everyday life in prison. Overlapping voices summon the relentless cacophony, while letters transform into birds that fly hopes and worries over the walls. And through it all there’s a tough, humane sense of humour, challenging preconceptions at every turn." Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production "Five women tell their story in this honest though disjointed production...Although the script and cast are auspicious features of the production, it feels disjointed overall. Scenes are often disconnected and towards the end of the play information about minor characters is released and left without exploration. Attempts at physical theatre appear forced and saccharine within a terrifically truthful play." Full Review

Stunning, Arresting, Deep, Thoughtful, Must see

See it if you want to see magnificent acting. Unexpected loads talent in a simple yet, deeply thoughtful play. One the best I've seen in a while

Don't see it if you don't like original, unique works in black box settings

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Original

See it if you enjoy something a bit avant garde and edgy. . . . you couldn't stop watching Orange Is the New Black.

Don't see it if you are a fan of musical comedy

Brilliant, Thought-provoking, Moving, Great writing, Must see

See it if brilliantly written, acted and staged. Moving and gripping story. Touching, real and insightful. Sad and funny. MUST SEE!

Don't see it if no excuses. Get it while supplies last!

Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Profound

See it if you like original, devised, British performances that explore dark and realistic issues that affect female prisoners.

Don't see it if you don't like Fringe festival works, are offended by profanity, or would be uncomfortable with depictions of domestic abuse.

Great acting, Great writing, Profound, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are moved by the plight of women who wind up in prison due to misfortunes outside their control, who must struggle to make their way

Don't see it if You need a dose of comedy, a la Orange is the New Black, to take the edge of the bleak reality imprisoned women face

Ambitious, Great acting, Edgy, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you want a theater experience that opens your eyes to the lives of people society too often ignores or writes off as lesser.

Don't see it if you don't have an hour to spare to open your mind.


See it if You want to experience these women in their prison experience. Excellent Engish cast. Actress's are very nautural and real.

Don't see it if You are not into thought provoking theater pieces

Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Relevant

See it if You like well written and masterfully acted theater or like stories of women in prison. All of the women give powerful powerformes

Don't see it if You don't like minimalist staging or don't want to actively listen in order to follow the story.

Great acting, Edgy, Great staging

See it if A beautifully acted and powerful prison drama set in England. Very moving and although sad, there is hope. Inventive staging and direction.

Don't see it if You have trouble understanding English accents and don't like prison dramas. Could be more character development.

Exquisite, Must see, Original, Epic, Great writing

See it if Fantastic production , must see so glad that i was one of the technicians that worked on in edinburgh and be able to watch in NYC again :)

Don't see it if N/A

Great acting, Great writing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Funny

See it if You enjoy good honest theatre with lots of energy and humour. A must see - highly recommended

Don't see it if Everyone should see this show it is such a powerful piece of work that it is a good fit for everyone - enjoy.


See it if Hits to the core. Want to address your basic human self? Feel the pain of what could happen? What might have happened? Cleverly done.

Don't see it if Can't think of any reason not to see it

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Profound

See it if You want honesty and truth about the human condition. There is a rawness here that speaks straight from the heart of voices we seldom hear.

Don't see it if You don't want to be confronted with uncomfortable truths. That is not to say this play is without plenty of humour and joy.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Profound

See it if You believe theatre can change things, change you.

Don't see it if You want light entertainment that you'll easily forget

Ambitious, Enchanting, Exquisite, Entertaining

See it if You love theatre with a conscience

Don't see it if You hate good theatre

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if You like good acting, good writing.

Don't see it if If you're offended by the word 'cunt'

Entertaining, Edgy, Must see, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You love honest, true stories, that will send you on an emotional roller coaster. It's beautifully presented and excellently portrayed.

Don't see it if There's no reason not to see this really. If you don't like to laugh and cry then maybe it's not for you.

Thought-provoking, Must see, Funny, Brilliant

See it if Want to be inspired and moved by true stories

Don't see it if It would be a mistake to miss this

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if Thought provoking

Don't see it if You don't care about society

Resonant, Profound, Great acting, Funny, Intense

See it if You are a smart person who appreciates the voices of people who are often unheard.

Don't see it if You are vapid

Funny, Great acting, Clever

See it if You're interested in real women's stories told with sensitivity & imagination, & presented by highly talented female artists

Don't see it if You' can't understand a Northern English accent

Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Original, Must see

See it if you love complex female characters, written with humanity and humor. you think about the world we live in and how we define right and wrong.

Don't see it if you want froth and triviality.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Intense, Edgy

See it if You are interested in making a difference, you care about social justice, you are passionate about excellent theatre ..

Don't see it if You want an easy ride

Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking, Original, Refreshing

See it if you like Orange is the New Black and would appreciate a more authentic portrayal of the lives of prisoners.

Don't see it if you don't like ensemble casts, minimalist sets, or plays that last about an hour.

Clever, Edgy, Refreshing, Thought-provoking

See it if You like something that is Excellent and vibrant

Don't see it if You want convention

Cast & Creatives (10)