There’s a certain special feeling one gets when going to the theatre. The thrill of entering another world; seeing a narrative unfold in front of your very eyes, with sets and actors so wondrous that you never want to leave. Although, there is a whole other realm of theatre that contains stories that deal with everyday, real life, nitty-gritty truths that are called plays. No bells, no big musical numbers but something that cuts deep bringing an entirely different, yet entertaining experience all at once. For two weeks only, Held a new play by Tina Jay and directed by Richard Elson (A Christmas Star) is heart-wrenching and raw from the get go.
With a picture of a hand in cuffs and the tagline, “Yer can’t protect yerself in ‘ere” it’s no guessing as to what this tale is about. We are no stranger to prison dramas. The brutality, the rape, the drugs, the feeling as though you have no one when you are surrounded by many like-minded people who all want the same thing – to survive, no matter the costs. When new young offender Jamie (Jack Brett Anderson) gets thrown into the harsh reality of adult prison, he quickly has to learn and adapt to deal with these new regulations his more experienced cell mate Sleat (Anthony Taylor) has in place. The first half eradicates any ounce of hope as poor Jamie realises the life he thought he had is truly gone.
Moving onto the second act, aptly names ‘Dog City’, Jamie’s friend Fynn (layed by Anderson) falls for the pretty blonde and toned Cal (Duran Fulton Brown) and for a moment this becomes a sweet and enduring gay love story, only for it to be ripped away by drug baron Ryde, also played by Taylor. Playing at Tristan Bates theatre, in association with the actors centre, Jay’s story seemed too big for the roof it was in. Our talented trio of actors carried this through, but the thought of what this would have been like if it wasn’t confined to just two locations and a constant dimming of the lights to play with time Held could have truly been captivating. Such limitations allowed for moments of eye wondering over the basic set, but then thoughts of the fact these people have managed to get their play into a London theatre is pretty impressive.
If you want to sink your teeth into something that isn’t the norm and show you exactly how much you can do with 2 sets and 3 actors, then Held is certainly worth your time. If you are expecting this to wow and surprise you then just beware of traits and tropes that we have all seen before.