Originally conceived as a two-hander under the title “As We Forgive Them”, drama teacher Richard Vergette’s expanded and retitled version spans the eight year period (2008-2016) of the Obama administration but is still short enough to leave plenty of time for discussion afterwards.
Set in a cheerless penitentiary in a southern US state, it brings together handcuffed and shackled prisoner Lee Fenton and John Daniels (Peter Tate), the father of the young woman he was convicted of murdering for a $10 bill and a packet of cigarettes.
In an apparent act of mercy, newly elected Democrat congressman Daniels has used his influence to save Fenton from death row, and has undertaken to teach him himself in what turns out to be the first step in instigating a policy of educating illiterate offenders.
Under the disapprovingly watchful eye of the Republican warder (David Schaal), a transformation occurs as Ryan Gage’s angry Fenton graduates from sullen inarticulacy to self-control and an impressive level of literacy.
But there’s more than one twist in Lisa Forrell’s starkly staged, provocative production which suggests that education – especially when provided too late – can prove a treble–edged sword.
Arts Theatre,Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB
Tube | Leicester Square
Until 9th February£22.50 (Mondays – £17.50)