Powerful stories from escapees of the death penalty
By Myron My
The death penalty has, and probably always will be, a contentious issue. There will be one side that states you have to pay for your crimes, while the other would say no-one has a right to take anyone’s lives. While no side can be universally claimed as “correct”, the Sol III Company‘s production of The Exonerated will have even the most staunch believer in the death penalty questioning their stance.
Writers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen spent the year 2000 interviewing a number of people who had all been wrongfully convicted of murder and placed on death row. After spending years and sometimes decades in prison, these people were later exonerated with Blank and Jensen using six of these people’s stories in this production.
The six actors portraying the exonerated prisoners could not have been better cast. Even with the added pressure of playing real-life people as authentically as possible, each one is able to draw us into their world and have us really feeling what it must have been like for these former convicts. Vuyo Loko and Jordan Armstrong in particular shine in their roles, showing their characters as equally strong and fragile under their circumstances.
Director Andrei Schiller-Chan excels in The Exonerated where, despite having to contend with up to ten people on stage at any time, he has contrived that you are never left overwhelmed with the stories. Schiller-Chan uses the limited space to the fullest in developing how the actors move and interact on stage. In a way, this supports the type of claustrophobic environment that we could only begin to imagine that these narrators experienced from their time in prison.
The death penalty is not the lightest of themes to handle, with productions all too often heading straight for the emotional jugular. In The Exonerated, Blank and Jensen allow those who have experienced the threat of execution to speak for themselves, which in turn allows for the stories we hear to be told honestly, with sensitivity and at a pace where the audience have the opportunity to not only digest all that is happening on the stage, but also to reflect and consider. This is what powerful and moving theatre should be.
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 7 June | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $37.50 Full | $32.50 Conc
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel or 8290 7000