Monday, 24 June 2013

Portsmouth Festivities 2013: 'The Exonerated'

by Alex Quarrie-Jones

No better atmosphere could have been selected than that of a bitterly cold and windy evening inside the Round Tower, where stalactites of frozen salt hung over the audience, eerily similar to the “sword of Damocles” scenarios that the protagonists of The Exonerated faced while they waited on death row. The performance was absolutely excellent, with the execution of every movement, line and expression flawless (particularly considering the fact that actual rehearsals didn’t begin until three days before the performance). Every member of the cast gave brilliant portrayals of those who recounted the harrowing events which eventually allowed them to become "the Exonerated”.

The stories of "The Exonerated” are told retrospectively, with each individual recounting his or her arrest (which generally happens in the 1970s), imprisonment on death row and eventual exoneration (which generally occurs in the 1990s). For the majority of the performance, the various stories stay separate from each other, with brief mentions of the other events if they are significant enough, but this isolation proves key as it allows each story to highlight the subtle coercion and corruption within the legal system at that time, one that was still heavily biased towards the white American population, leaving the black population (most of the characters are black) to suffer within an unjust system.
However their stories are double edged because we only ever hear it retrospectively and from their own perspective, so some of the scenarios of exoneration are ambiguous, allowing another level of questioning to be developed, ultimately drawing the already-captivated audience in further.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance but just took one issue away: I didn’t particularly like he use of sound effects because I felt it detracted from the gravity of the stories being told, as it slightly reminded the audience that they were watching a play rather than an actual account by "the Exonerated”. Apart from that, I thought the piece was absolutely perfect and, even though every cast member performed to an equally high standard, I feel special commendation should go to James Gulliford and Ollie Velasco as they have technically come back from the start of their holidays to perform amongst the cream of the acting crop that PGS can call upon.

Full Cast: Aggie Newton, Emma Read, Charlie Albuery, Melissa Smith, Natasha Morgan, Ben Schofield, Tom Harper, Ollie Velasco, James Gulliford and Mr McCrohon.      

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