Intra Muros, a new play by French playwright Alexis Michalik opens with Richard, a stereotypical ‘actor’ type, with flamboyant gestures, floral shirt and neck tie, played by (Ché Walker). He breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience what is theatre to us? We realise that we are in the middle of a drama class, with professional actors, a social worker- and two rather reluctant prison inmates – the only ones who have turned up to take part in the workshop.
The stage is extremely bare, set in a British prison with a blank space and a few plastic chairs in which the ‘workshop’ and different scenes take place. The stark stage works quite well, as there is multi-rolling demanded of each actor and accompanied by talented Jazz musician, (Rio Kai), fast paced scene changes make sure that the space is busy enough as it is.
As a prison drama, it begins with much promise due to the huge contrast in inmates. Kevin, (Declan Perring), is a loose cannon, who delivers an angsty monologue retelling his childhood trauma that is full of pain and moves aggressively almost spokenword like which is hugely moving. Partnered with Kevin is his companion Angel (Victor Gardener), who is the complete opposite. He is silent and sombre, and really does not want to get involved with the workshop, let alone open up about his past.
The play progresses to a more ‘soap’ like quality; but the cast are great, with extremely intelligent choices (the play is also directed by actor Ché Walker). There are even stand out multi role characters like the prison’s postie (Summer Strallen) – however the narrative disappointingly doesn’t leave us with anything original or fresh concerning the ‘prison’ genre.