CRYING IN THE CHAPEL
by Pauline Stafford, Chris Coghill, Nick Clarke.
Contact Theatre To 8 May 2010.
Non-Sat 8pm Mat 6 May 2pm.
BSL Signed 6 May 8pm.
Runs 1hr 35min No interval.
TICKETS: 0161 274 0600.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May.
Gripping production about a spontaneous event.
It’s called the meanest building among central Manchester’s streets of mean factories and warehouses. With its recognisable tower, an image of which appears as prisoners break-out onto Sarah Oxley’s rooftop set, Strangeways prison was the setting for its own piece of theatre twenty years ago, when a 25-day riot revealed attitudes and conditions more associated with Victorian gaols.
The ‘bang-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key’ brigade might go apoplectic at Crying in the Chapel, crafted from prisoners’ testimonies and news-footage of events. This is the prisoners’ view, never asking its characters be judged by the actions that sent them to jail – though the use of prisons as society’s default dumping-ground gets mentioned, with statistics showing the incarcerated population near doubling over the last generation.
Crying shows how the riot, perhaps inevitably, was theatre – for both are about expressing human concerns. It broke-out in the prison chapel, disrupting one show, the chaplain’s sermon, when a prisoner grabbed the microphone and cued action. The rooftop performance included messages inscribed on blankets, mimed displays and attempts (drowned-out by officialdom) to convey information.
There was an audience of press, onlookers and relatives. For the men involved it was a holiday and a carnival: for once they called the shots. As one said, he’d as much ‘association’ time on the first day than in a week of 23-hour lock-ups. And something made a young inmate with only five days left risk release by joining-in on the roof.
Then there were speeches, some showing how well both the situation and wider matters could be articulated. Adding up to the men’s main point, that they were human, and much more than the cigarette-dealing, sloping-out queue seen early on.
Early on, Nick Clarke’s production surrounds the audience with the whispers and shouts of a prison-block, figures patrolling the lighting gantries above, then running riotously. There’s less physical energy later, but the production maintains momentum through interaction among the protesters, between them and the authorities, and in several thoughtful monologues.
Fink On featre field an impressive cast (the company also does workshops with offenders and the socially excluded) who present these voices clearly.
Eric: Neil Bell.
Paul Taylor: Derek Barr
Mark Williams: Daniel Hayes.
Alan Lord: Vince Atta.
Glyn Williams: Michael Ryan.
John Murray: Gareth Cassidy.
Martin Bryant: Adam Foster.
Andrew nelson: David Judge.
Darren Jones: Jack Colgrave-Hirst.
David Bowen/Mason: Adam Beresford.
Tony Bush/Prisoner: Sean Cernow.
Tyrone: Geoff Dignan.
P O Preston/Proctor/Policeman: Greg Patmore.
P O Collins/Brendan O’Friel/Tate: Tony Hirst.
P O Duffield/Reporter: Karl Haynes.
Lily Taylor: Ruth Evans.
Mrs Murray/Jones/Female P O: Julie Glover.
Director: Nick Clarke.
Designer: Sarah Oxley.
Lighting: Richard Babington.
Sound: Kevin Carroll, Billy Morley.
Visuals: Nick Wallbank.
Assistant director: Kate Colgrave-Pope.