Home Theatre, Manchester; Wednesday 16th May, 2018
All he did was shoot him in the ass, it was the incompetent doctors who actually killed him. In the grim bleakness of the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York, failed gangster Angel Cruz finds himself face-to-face with the brutal reality of a first-degree murder charge.
As his scheming lawyer desperately attempts to coach him into talking his way out of it, Cruz instead strikes up a conversation with a fellow prisoner – a man who says he has now found God and has, therefore, figured everything out.
Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is an intriguing piece of moody theatre that explores how prisoners who are confined and restrained physically instead make an attempt to achieve freedoms that are more mental and spiritual. This is the story of a descent into desperation – two criminals hopelessly attempting to justify their terrible actions to themselves and to each other, in the face of a judicial system that just wants revenge.
With the on-stage prison cells being abstracted through nothing more than two grey squares on the floor, the portrayal of confinement is instead cleverly achieved via the hopeless and pathetic reasoning of the inmates, who enter into lengthy debates that mostly go nowhere.
The bickering is intense and the quest for redemption grows ever more absurd, with irrational justifications being given for murderous acts. Yet gradually, given the inescapable reality of being physically confined, the presentation of any kind of reasoning and rationalising becomes plausible, and therefore worth discussing.
With strong elements of comedy that beautifully lift the otherwise deeply philosophical plot, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train attempts to explain away the unjustifiable, and in many ways it succeeds. This is a performance that suddenly and surprisingly pushes the audience through the emotional barriers surrounding violent crime to instead rouse a much deeper contemplation of the forces that shaped the actions in the first place.
|Visual pleasure||A relatively sparse set, dominated by a huge stars and stripes flag hanging in the background. But it worked, the focus was heavily pushed onto the spoken word, and that in itself helped to reinforce the underlying concept that any argument / explanation is valid when you’re desperate.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Littered with some fairly foul language, though this presented a welcome aspect of realism in what is a prison drama. Great use of incidental music to emphasise key moments.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||An excellent piece of writing, particularly the way that the perpetrators of terrible crimes are almost given a voice to explain themselves, even though their crimes are unforgivable.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Brilliant performances: star of the show is Danny Solomon as Angel Cruz, who comes across so believably that his character genuinely draws sympathy.||4|
|Overall impact||A very good play that captures a sense of prison-cell claustrophobia and portrays it as being a mental and spiritual escape.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|