Sharing a squalid cell are political activist Valentin and Molina (convicted of “gross indecency” ), a gay window dresser with a love of film who keeps his sullen companion entertained with his own embellished versions of exotic movie plots, transporting them both briefly to another world outside the prison walls. As he speaks, grainy silhouettes are projected on the wraparound corridor walkways of Jon Bausor’s set.
They’re unlikely cellmates but, as the weeks pass, the relationship between the gruff, straight revolutionary and the sensitive Molina becomes one of genuine affection and more.
The production takes a while to grip but, once it does, it’s both compelling and liberating. And the performances from the two inmates are first rate. Declan Bennett (unrecognisable from his stint in the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar last year) convinces as a serious-minded man brought low by torture and a repressive regime’s dirty tricks. And Samuel Barnett (who first came to attention fifteen years ago as the most sensitive pupil in The History Boys) is even better as the compromised Molina, tender, torn and with a vivid imagination.
Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Tube: London Bridge
Until 5th May 2018
£40.00 plus premier seats & £50.00 meal deals