In the Penal Colony – Rating **
Young Vic Theatre. 13th July 2011
This was a first for me. A play with surtitles. I attended ‘In the Penal Colony’ wondering how I could possibly follow and comprehend a Palestinian play spoken in Arabic with surtitles, but my fears were quickly allayed as the surtitles were easy enough to read, whilst simultaneously following the action on stage.
Comprehending the play is an entirely different matter mind! It was certainly an unusual play with just 3 characters and just 2 for the first 20 minutes. Reminiscent a little of Samuel Becektt’s ‘Waiting for Godot as you wait for something to happen and wonder what on earth the prisoner has done to deserve being tied to a rope and made to run around the penal colony as he awaited his fate.
It wasn’t particularly helpful or empathetic to not know the reason for this and the torture and humiliation he was put through, but I must presume that was all part of the suspense or maybe even wasn’t meant to be the main point.
When the Viewer comes along, it’s still a while before the audience and Viewer (observer) know what the offence is. Additionally I feel the play would have benefitted from a few more moments of humour to lighten the mood of the play
Summing up, the play highlighted the barbarism of penal colony’s, not to mention the power of the mind and how it can be controlled in controlled situations for many years/hours making the captive helpless and indoctrinated – witness the opportunities the prisoner had to escape, which weren’t taken and the surprising denouement.
We’ve heard of similar “indoctrination horrors” in real life with long term enslavement/captivity such as Josef Fritzl imprisoning his daughter Elisabeth for 24 years up to 2008. Similarly Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped and imprisoned by Phillip Craig Garrid and his wife Nancy Garrid for 18 years up to 2009. In both instances there were opportunities over the years for these young women to escape which weren’t taken. Serious cases of mind over matter.
© Tiemo Talk of the Town, 19th July 2011
In the Penal Colony ran from 11th to 23rd July 2011 at the Young Vic Theatre, Waterloo, London.