If Prison Walls Could Speak portrays the true story of Petr Jasek, who was imprisoned for this faith in Sudan. It’s a one-man tour de force, and a harrowing story told in an extraordinary way, says our reviewer
A one-man touring show about the persecuted Church might seem like a hard show to sell.
Preconceptions of long monologues and limited props pulled from the back of a small van were, however, monumentally dispelled by the incredible theatrical ambitions of If Prison Walls Could Speak.
Deliberately locked up with ISIS terrorists, his story is brutal and shocking
Having already wowed audiences at Keswick and New Wine, Artless Theatre Company have produced a play that is bold, innovative and shocking to the core - not just in the content of the script but also the bold execution of the production values. Their cutting-edge use of audio and visual techniques transport the audience to the very heart of the difficult story they tell.
An artful retelling
Based on the book Imprisoned with Isis, the play tells the true story of Petr Jasek, a Czech Christian humanitarian worker who was imprisoned for 445 days in Sudan for supporting the persecuted Church. Deliberately locked up with ISIS terrorists, his story is brutal and shocking. Consequently, this is not an easy play to watch. To say that it doesn’t hold back on the powerful message it seeks to convey is an understatement.
Partnering with Release International, the play is written by Chris Poch (who also stars in the play) and Jonathan Maltz. ‘Artless’ is somewhat of a misnomer for a theatre company that presents a production bursting with artistic imagination on a level I have rarely experienced before. This high-tech production uses video projected onto a massive gauze that straddles the entire width and height of the stage. This backlights Poch, the single actor, and creates a visual feast that includes a myriad of life-size filmed actors that play all the other parts.
The way that Poch interacts with these characters, whether in beautifully tender duologues with his wife, or tense interrogation scenes with his brutal captors, is astounding – both in scale of ambition and because of the content. Artless draws you into scenes at airports and confined filthy prison cells, to flying over the desert and underwater with crocodiles, using imaginative visual parallels to convey the horror of what 360,000,000 persecuted Christians face every day for their faith.
Created to challenge
Poch’s solo performance is a tour de force. Never have I seen a one-man show that is so inspiring, challenging and technically difficult for an actor to navigate. Performing with a cast of nine other characters that don’t actually exist on stage. The deftness of queuing the visuals, music and dialogue - a mixture of captured video and live performance – is, in itself, a monumental achievement.
Artless use imaginative visuals to convey the horror of what 360,000,000 persecuted Christians face every day
Petr Jasek’s story attracted international coverage back in 2015, which would finally result in a campaign to release him. Talking to Poch after the performance, he was very clear that Artless wanted to create was a play that not only would engender compassion from the audience, but also communicate a central message of standing firm. Standing up for the truth and holding onto your faith in the face of persecution is something that, as Christians, we all need to be prepared for.
If Prison Walls Could Speak is currently on a UK tour in partnership with Release International. More information and dates here