Thursday, 12 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: The Jumper Factory - HOME, Manchester.

Six men were sat down in a line on stage. It looked like they were waiting for someone to take their mug shot. This was a verbatim piece of theatre devised in collaboration with inmates at HMP Wandsworth. The content was collated and turned into a one act play, written by Luke Barnes. Directed by Josh Parr, the focus was on people locked away from outside society and the inner strength and determination they needed to confront a world that keeps on spinning while they remain still.

Ayomide Adegun, Jake Mills, Joe Haddad, Raphael Akuwudike, Rasuq Kukoyi, and Pierre Moullier form the ensemble of men aged 18-25. In a metatheatrical manner, they highlight they are actors playing real life people in prison, simultaneously all of the actors have been affected by the criminal justice system in some way.

The material had been devised by questions asked to the original inmates, each of which covered a specific area or topic linked to life inside and outside of prison. As a result, a plethora of insightful scenarios and stories were conveyed to the audience. You could sense the gnawing frustration of not been able to hug or kiss loved ones. High category prisoners aside, it's easy to forget that the inmates are real people, the characters seemed remorseful for their actions. In a setting like this, you can comprehend why some are so tempted to take drugs.

One burning line of enquiry, not covered in that much detail, was the question of whether the rehabilitation system actually works? If the play had followed that line a little further, it might have been richer in depth for it. Prison Theatre is a fascinating branch of applied theatre and it is wonderful to see this taking centre stage at Home Theatre.

While individually, the actors do a good job in presenting a mixed bag of characters comprised of subtle personality traits, collectively it's a different story. What the performance was lacking was the testorone fuelled energy you might expect. As an ensemble, it didn't feel like they were owning the space and playing right to the back row of the audience. The relationships within the ensemble were never fully established. Consequently, it didn't feel like they interacted with each other confidently.

Lighting designer, Jess Glaisher had lit the stage effectively. The lighting was rather cold and unforgiving; claustrophobic and angular. Many of the lights, intimidatingly, shone directly down on the actors like a hanging light in an police interview room. 

In summary, while the play text was insightful and there were amusing moments, it was somewhat underwhelming.

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 11/9/19

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