The death penalty has, and probably always will be, a contentious issue. There will be one side that states you have to pay for your crimes, while the other would say no one has a right to take anyone's life. While no side is "correct", The Sol III Company's production of The Exonerated will have even the most staunch believer of the death penalty questioning their stance.
Writers, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, spent the year 2000 interviewing a number of people who had all been wrongfully convicted of murder and placed on death row. After spending years and sometimes decades in prison, these people were later exonerated with Blank and Jensen using six of these people's stories in this production.
The six actors portraying the exonerated prisoners could not have been better cast. Even with the added pressure of playing these real life people as authentically as possible, each one is able to draw us into their world and have us really feeling what it must have been like for these people. Vuyo Loko and Jordan Armstrong, in particular, shine in their roles, showing these people as equally strong and fragile under their circumstances.
Director, Andrei Schiller-Chan excels in The Exonerated, where despite having to contend with up to ten people on stage at any time, you are never left overwhelmed with the stories. Schiller-Chan uses the limited space to the fullest in how the actors move and interact on stage. In a way, this supports the type of claustrophobic environment that we could only begin to imagine that these people experienced from their time in prison.
The death penalty and executions are not the lightest of themes to handle, with productions all too often heading straight down the emotional jugular. In The Exonerated, Blank and Jensen allow these people to speak for themselves, which in turn allows for the stories we hear to be told honestly, with sensitivity and at a pace where the audience have the opportunity to not only digest all that is happening on the stage, but also to reflect and consider. This is what powerful and moving theatre should be.
Venue:Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 7 June | Wed-Sat 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $37.50 Full | $32.50 Conc
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel or 8290 7000
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 26 May