The Pleasance Theatre London. On demand from 6th – 30th August. In person at The Pleasance Theatre London from 7th – 11th September.
Reviewed by Aimee Liddington.
Written and performed by Marcus Hercules, Prison Game is a monologue which tells the story of an innocent young man who finds himself in prison for a crime that he did not commit. Once there, he soon learns the tricks of the trade and despite his attempts to stay lawful upon his release, his life takes a turn for the worse and he ends up in and out of prison and eventually becoming a drug addict.
Mike’s parents came to England from Jamaica in the 1950’s and Caribbean culture is integral to the telling of the story. The first character we meet is the dynamic, Jamaican, carnival-loving narrator who returns throughout the performance to debrief the audience on each step of Mike’s journey into adulthood. Despite the darkness and gravity of the themes discussed, you cannot help but smile at the narrator’s energy which is accompanied by carnival music each time he appears on the stage.
Marcus Hercules’ ability to shift shape and form in order to clearly differentiate between each of the characters is commendable. His use of repeated phrases and mannerisms to signal character change is flawless and allows the audience to seamlessly follow the storyline without confusion. Hercules switches to and from Jamaican Patois and Manchester slang with ease as he performs roles of a stark contrast (Nana May to the drug dealer TQ). His energy, commitment and physical dynamism helps us transform the bare stage into Mike’s world which we are able to imagine in full.
At the beginning of the performance Mike is a naïve, respectful and ambitious young man and although at the end of the story we can see a glimmer of the young boy he once was, it is clear that he has been changed forever by what he has seen whilst playing the prison game