Writer: Luke Barnes
Director: Josh Parr
Reviewer: Andrea Allen
Created in collaboration with inmates at HMP Wandsworth and written by Luke Barnes The Jumper Factory melds together authentic voices of prison inmates into a single narrative of a prisoner fighting to exist in a world that moves on without them.
Though the prisoners who inspired Barnes’ central figure have been unable to perform to audiences nationwide, his writing ensures that their voices have travelled beyond the walls within which they are confined. This sparse production plays out on a set of six black plastic chairs. Lovers, mothers and children are in turn played by different members of the company, and Barnes’ writing evokes humour, sadness, seriousness and silliness in turn, an admirable achievement which puts a human behind the grey tracksuits, blank statistics and ‘thug’ stereotypes of a ‘prisoner’.
At times the show loses pace, which is particularly worth noting as it runs at just 45 minutes. The piece is also slightly disorientating until it becomes clear that we are focusing on one narrative, albeit an amalgamation of several very real voices.
This run at HOME Manchester follows a successful national tour and is the final time that the original, founding cast will work together. The company itself is a group of six young men aged 18 – 25 with little to no acting experience, surprising as it may seem given sharpness and quality of their individual performances.
Their sole commonality of the six actors is that within their lives they have encountered the criminal justice system in some form, be it through visiting a relative, drug dealing, or more bizarre examples such as being arrested for “chasing a fox”. The show is a product of Young Vic Taking Part, and it’s an absolute joy and a testament to the strength of the programme that several of the cast have either signed on with theatrical agents or respected theatre schools as a direct result of their participation in this production.
Runs until 14 September 2019 | Image: Leon Puplett