"Physical theatre suddenly very relevant"
by Coco Hall on 23/08/11

Icon Theatre's devised physical theatre piece Release has never seemed more relevant with the news this morning that over 1,000 people have been arrested and charged in relation to the riots in the UK a fortnight ago.

There simply won't be enough room in the UK's prisons if people are put in prison for four years for posting a message on Facebook.

Research by Icon Theatre (as well as prison reform groups) suggests that prison does not work. Two-thirds of UK prisoners re-offend within 2 years. If you are sent to prison for a minor offence, quite often you leave prison with the skills to commit a major offence, then are caught and the cycle begins again.

Release examines this hopeless cycle, and was developed in workshops with ex-offenders. It follows the stories of three ex-cons - Kyle (Paul Tinto), Hitesh (Shane Shambhu) and Becky (Verity Hewlett), as they struggle to find love, jobs and accommodation.

The play is a mixed media piece, mixing character-driven acting (the threee actors play all the roles) with stylised sequences of dance and athletic physical theatre, using scenery that cleverly transforms, projections and newscasts, and a thumping soundtrack.

The play at no point feels polemical though occassionally the characters (such as probation newbie Susan) revert a bit to type. The cast are excellent, and manage to bring different qualities to each part they play, though some of the doubling works better, in particular the studious Manoj and the edgy Hitesh.

The lives of the ex-prisoners spirals out of control, and though there is a hint that Becky might get a second chance, the statistics win out as Kyle and Hitesh don't, Kyle in particular destroying not only his life but the life of the innocent Manoj.

Overall a very relevant and exhilarating piece of work.

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