Writer: Michael Crowley
Director: Ron Meadows
Reviewer: Nathan Shreeve
The Public Reviews Rating:
Set in the cell of prisoner Kelly, The Cell, by Michael Crowley, is the gripping portrayal of a relationship between a habitual criminal and his long-term liason officer. Crowley is clearly a writer of immense skill, particularly with dialogue, resulting in a play which is a joy to watch, and never boring.
David Barlow brings the character of Kelly to life with such vivacity, it is a tour de force of a performance, and he fully inhabits every facet of the character. Unfortunately, due to the character’s strong dialect, the clarity of some dialogue was lost, which duly clouded elements of the twisting plot. This is not the sole fault of Barlow, nor of Crowley, rather, the play needed, at these points, a firmer hand on the rudder from director Ron Meadows in order to clearly steer the audience through the often complex, layered narrative.
Paul Regan gives a strong performance as Kelly’s keeper Scully, although his character is slightly less believable than that of Kelly; the script forces him to jump between extreme emotions a tad too quickly to be plausible in this naturalistic drama. Currently, the play runs at a 45 minutes, so more time could easily be afforded in the script in order to map out Scully’s emotional journey at a pace which feels realistic to the audience, who watch all of the events in the play in real time.
Despite issues with the complex narrative and pace, The Cell is a brilliantly performed and tightly directed piece of theatre, which offers a rare insight into the lives of those who sleep and work behind bars. The world of the prison, as created by Crowley and Meadows is one which will draw you in and spit you out feeling bruised, and questioning the way in which we approach the penal system and our system of justice. For those with political interest, and those without, the experience of watching The Cell will not leave you in a hurry.
Runs every day until Jul 27th