HOME Theatre, Manchester; Wednesday 11th September, 2019
Six very angry looking men are sat on stage, staring down the audience. This is a war of attrition, who will back down first? Each one is oozing arrogance, evidenced by the outrageous manspreading on display, as well as a nonchalant leer which suggests that these guys are just not arsed.
The six men are prisoners – inmates of HMP Wandsworth – but this is no ordinary story of life behind bars; The Jumper Factory is arguably much more about the drawn-out agonies of disconnection from the outside world.
Constructed in 2018 through collaboration with real inmates serving sentences in Wandsworth prison, The Jumper Factory puts across a series of short but powerful stories that lay bare the consequences for those who know that they’re slowly losing more than just their personal freedom.
The performances are lucid and potently compelling. Each young man seems to have his own ponderous concern: from having to lie to family members about “being away” – hard at work in a jumper factory – through to the agonies of worrying if girlfriends will stay loyal, or whether the kids will even remember their dad.
The excellent acting performances deliver slow and satisfying transformations: in all cases the visual facade of masculine bravado gradually peels away to eventually reveal a far more contemplative character beneath. The reversion to machismo is never far away though, brilliantly delivered in the form of a deep dilemma over whether to make a go of staying on the straight and narrow or whether to just accept defeat and take the easier and more familiar path of crime.
The Jumper Factory is a short and sharp prison experience – but rather than depict what it’s like to be on the inside, it cleverly induces a far more relatable sense of trepidation centred around the impacts of not being on the outside.
With a script that literally and realistically speaks the words of inmates, and thanks to powerful performances from a cast who have themselves each interacted in some way with the criminal justice system, The Jumper Factory is an emotive and touching reminder of the old saying that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Photography: Leon Puplett
|Visual pleasure||Nothing more than six men and six chairs, though with plenty of good lighting effects. At only 45 minutes long, this wasn’t a concern as the rest of the performance held attention in other ways.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Beautifully mixed background music with a strong grime and hip hop ambience that seemed to satisfyingly complement the pensive mood.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||An excellent deployment of the verbatim theatre model, and especially the use of performers who’ve been involved in the judicial system in some way. Though made up of multiple individual stories and anecdotes they did seem to connect together in a coherent manner.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Excellent acting performances with each individual putting across a clear and precise personality despite the short performance time. Each performer came across as realistic and viable.||4|
|Overall impact||An unusually short piece of theatre but still a highly innovative and deeply thoughtful portrayal of issues at the boundary between freedom and incarceration.||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.|