‘I never looked for crime – crime looked for me and found me.’
Marcus Hercules’ one-man show traces the life of two young black boys, in semi-autobiographical physical theatre. Exploring how the prison system can shape a person, it’s a compelling, sometimes disturbing look at the factors that contribute to turning to crime.
There’s a diverse cast of characters, from the worried nan to the charismatic pastor, and the Carnival entertainer who provides narration. Marcus switches from Jamaican patois to a Manchester accent with ease, as his young protagonists Clive and Mike experience the thrill of a sound system DJ, brotherly scuffles, their concerned mother, and the police harassment all too prevalent among PoC men.
As an accident leads to Clive being kept back a year, he falls into drug running to help his overworked mother, and soon Mike follows in his footsteps thanks to the dubious father figure TQ. The feeling of hopelessness and frustration as the boys try to escape their vicious carceral circle is well-conveyed in Marcus’s dynamic, intense acting. Standout moments for me were the claustrophobic descents into the edge of prison cell insanity and the fraught, violent jail alliances.
Prison Game is a powerful, timely piece of writing that everyone should see, and if you miss it at the Fringe it will be at the Pleasance Islington in September.