YOU certainly can't accuse the Studio Theatre of shirking from a daunting production, writes Christine Nielsen.

Set in the bowels of a ship transporting women convicts from England to Australia at the start of 19th century, Female Transport doesn't skimp on all the misery you'd expect from a six-month journey such as this.

Mostly chained by an ankle to their beds, the six female characters at the heart of this drama are powerless on the face of it.

But the dog-eat-dog starting point evolves as the story charges grimly on, and we see the women pool what little power they have to forge what limited boundaries they can against the men who run the ship.

On opening night, it was badass Nance (Samantha Luckman) who best expressed this transformation.

Male characters deliver some historical context, and act in predictably greedy, cruel and spineless ways.

The Tommy character is annoyingly soppy - thankfully we had the memory of Teddy Woolgrove's clever ditty on mobiles before the show.

The play isn't described as gritty for nothing - with rape, suicide, violence and sailor-level swearing throughout, Nance's ironic one-liner, 'Cheery,' sums it up.

n Female Transport by Steve Gooch runs at Studio Theatre, Ashley Road, Salisbury, runs until this Saturday (April 16). Performances are held each night at 7.30pm.

Tickets are available from Salisbury Information Centre, Fish Row, or call 01722 342860.