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Festival Review: The Prisoner ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that's 'far easier to admire than to like'.

The Prisoner is the type of production that is far easier to admire than to like. Directed by Peter Brook, the piece is an excellent showcase for Brook’s theories of acting and staging.

It is also very challenging to watch, and the rather slow-moving 70-minute running time feels long—almost torturous at times.

The main story focuses on the punishment of a young man who has committed ‘an unspeakable crime’—the murder of his father. His punishment: to stand outside a prison without any shelter. Through this we are introduced to a few characters, including the prisoner’s uncle (who had a hand in this form of punishment), a local man, a Westerner and the man’s sister—whose relationship with their father was the cause of the killing.

In the production’s defence, there are many interesting aspects, including its minimal design and how the actors embody their characters rather than just ‘play’ them.

But in truth, The Prisoner feels more like an academic exercise than a production. It’s honourable, but its slow pace and stylised methods make it difficult to like.

The Prisoner was part of this year’s EIF programme. Its run has ended.

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