Writer: Joanna Treves and Connie Treves
Director: Connie Treves
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
The most remarkable thing about this superb play is its length. The material here could have formed the basis for a much longer piece – it’s rich, dark and has an intriguing storyline at its base. Thank God the writers stuck to a 90-minute blast though, socking it to the audience in a poetic, kinetic shock.
Shooting out from the confines of a death-row dungeon the play soars through an exploration of mental illness, serious and unspeakable abuse, the fight for redemption and the determination to see an idea through – regardless of the personal consequences. With several lines running through it, we’re essentially looking at a prison investigator working to get a man off death row, while falling in love with a former priest (now a counsellor at the prison) and brushing past another prisoner who acts as narrator to the play, linking it all together.
Balancing the evil that these men have done with understanding (not endorsement or judgement) is a neat trick. It is revealed in the absorbing cast movements that hail our senses as loudly as the words, and in the flawed characters that somehow force empathy and even sympathy on us watchers for people we find abhorrent.
It’s extremely difficult to not pay attention to Corey Montague-Sholay when he’s playing here. His accent, voice, body language, movement and vulnerability are the portal to the empathy mentioned above. He’s the perfect guide through this murky, corrupted world of prison, damage and yearning for a personal brand of freedom. Introducing tension and violence with just a few short scenes is Hunter Bishop as York, and countering his self-destructive bent is Jade Ogugua as The Lady (the prison investigator).
Supported by the others in the cast, these three mould the movement (directed by co-creator of Pharmacy Theatre Emily Orme) and words from the page into something cerebral – the impression is of ebbing and flowing thought processes rather than a staged play which is a great device to gain audience attention. Some parts don’t quite work as well as others, some side plots and storylines are just distractions and while the set design and evolution (no spoilers, but it’s a very cool idea) is great, it seemed to be just there rather than play an important part in the play.
The writing is sharp – setting it immediately apart from other small productions who try for poetry and end up with verbosity. That alone is a reason to see it. Combined with the fearless exploration of tough topics and properly integrated movement and sound, however, makes it a very compelling offer.
Runs until 17 June 2017 | Image: Paul Gilling