TFANA presents the New York premiere of "The Prisoner," a provocative examination of law and justice, punishment and redemption from Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne. More…
A man sits alone outside a prison. Who is he? What is he doing there? Is he free? Or is he the prisoner?
“A fascinating parable, and Brook and Estienne have brought it to remarkable life...’The Prisoner’ is stunning in its simplicity and universality...Brook’s profound understanding of Dostoevsky and Beckett informs ‘The Prisoner’. Though the place is never specified, the landscape of ‘Waiting for Godot’ is conjured up before our eyes...A man sitting alone in silence is one of the most profound images of the quest for self-knowledge that we’ll ever see on stage.” Full Review
“The performers are possessed of a gravity, marked by emotions carefully held back, that feels connected to French classical tragedy. But everything is done with such economy of means that the smallest gesture has an enormous effect...’The Prisoner’ has a spiritual quality one doesn't often find; this is especially true in its highly effective use of silence. Strange and terrible things happen in 'The Prisoner', but each is given ample time and space to sink in.” Full Review
“’The Prisoner' asks audience members to fill in blank spaces with their own imagination. What it lacks is the sense of inevitability...the feeling that every gesture and image onstage is there for a reason and that if you just concentrate on what’s before you, a pattern and logic will emerge...The problem may be that the text here provides too much information...The production feels long and oddly cluttered by its gnomic dialogue." Full Review
"The mind that will enjoy Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne’s 'The Prisoner' is one that’s more content in stillness than mine...I admit that, because of this slowness and despite my sympathy with the play's anti-incarceration message, I don’t find the work entertaining or engrossing; it’s a challenging way to spend 70 minutes...'The Prisoner' offers deep moral seriousness and a chance to sit with the faithful in contemplation. If you need something like that in your practice too, then go." Full Review
for a previous production “In Hiran Abeysekera’s beautiful central performance, we see him, over the years, feel his way towards a resolution, through his interactions with local people, visitors, passers-by. And the whole show achieves a magnificent balance of stillness, relaxation, and narrative tension; compelling us to pause, to breathe, and to reflect, but also moving the story towards its end with the inevitability and energy of a natural force, harnessed by an absolute master." Full Review
for a previous production “The story feels like a relic from a bygone era...In spite of the cumbersome plot, the acting shines...There are some lovely moments...The piece does raise some interesting questions...Though it’s not quite the same story, 'Antigone' did it better if you want to revisit ancient Greece...Nevertheless, ‘The Prisoner’ is a brilliant demonstration of acting and a nice reminder of the magnetic power of silence.” Full Review
for a previous production “Although philosophically provocative, a man spending two decades on a barren plain is dramatically inert...The clarity and control that characterised Brook’s best work...is only a few short steps from banality when the material is this thin...To deal with a story that is more meditative than dramatic, Brook and Estienne treat it like a fairy tale...They give it the archetypal quality of a parable, but not the profundity it seems to be searching for.” Full Review
for a previous production "Hiran Abeysekera makes a compelling lead...But aside from an entertaining but deeply silly sequence where he befriends a passing rat, this is static, ponderous fare....Brook’s signature approach, which creates a globe-trotting hodgepodge of borrowed philosophies and ideas, also feels dated in a world that is becoming more and more attuned to the unhelpfulness of lumping all non-western cultures together." Full Review
for a previous production “Beautifully presented, and created with calm singularity of movement and poise from an impeccable cast, it is nevertheless hugely conflicting...The framing of it all as exotic is darkly troubling, as it makes it exclusive rather than inclusive, the multinational cast members are ‘other'...The questions then become confused, the metaphors impenetrable, and the issue of who is the criminal, who the prisoner and who the observed becomes convoluted beyond resolution or care." Full Review
for a previous production “This is a wafer-thin evening, beautifully performed...and presented with a pleasing austerity and a less pleasing childlike solemnity as if we are being handed down a dose of spiritual wisdom...Its studied otherworldliness detracts from its effectiveness. It is beautiful, but never urgent in addressing the difficult world we have made for ourselves...Although there are moments of real grace and invention, almost as if in mid-sentence, the staging does not invite emotional involvement." Full Review
for a previous production “Parts of this play feel distinctly moribund...I’m certainly pleased that it’s over and I can now reflect on a theme...that is offset by clunky dialogue and skew-whiff morality...This play is more fable than anything else...The dialogue is stilted and the pacing turtle-like, although there is a fascination in the otherworldliness of it...At times it does feel as if we are being sentenced.” Full Review
for a previous production “With support from...a strong cast, it is disappointing to find that the drama falls flat and far below the high expectations...The play is a bizarre one act meandering that is both macabre and conflicted. The attempts at black comedy are insipid and limp. It seems to strive towards becoming a 21st Century Waiting for Godot, but in reality has none of the mystery, intrigue or fascination that Beckett’s play holds...Most problematic of all is the play’s extremely warped attitude towards women.” Full Review
for a previous production "Somewhat disappointingly in 'The Prisoner,' Brook’s two rules of the stage space, that anything can happen and that something must happen, are not fully realised. The story gently unfolds without anything much happening and with no sense that anything else might happen. Without the latter there is no sense of drama, and although the intention of this understated approach may be to reveal something profound through such simplicity, the characters and the story feel sadly remote." Full Review
See it if you enjoy different type of theater, and f you are a fan of Peter Brook's direction. Based on an actual event. I found it mesmerizing.
Don't see it if you like big productions.
See it if you’d like to see a primal fable, as complex as all humanity, simply, affectingly enacted.
Don't see it if you know from experience that extremely simple theatrical means fail to engage you.
See it if You like theater that challenges your intellect, that you have to chew on for a few days after
Don't see it if You want to be entertained, you don't want to pay very close attention for 75 minutes, you want the points to be immediately obvious
See it if You love the innovative spirit of Peter Brook, whose fingerprints are all over this. Great acting with precise physical work from the cast.
Don't see it if You need a complicated nuanced story: The direction and acting are both terrific, but if you also need great acting, well, the story is thin
See it if If you admire Peter Brook and appreciate his aesthetic, love metaphor and don't mind periods of static staging or anodyne philosophy.
Don't see it if You hate Peter Brook, like realistic sets and traditional dramatic structure and plays that involve explicit characters and conflict.
See it if Because late work can surprise or reveal even if not conquer your heart or head -Brook and the cast have earned it.
Don't see it if You need word and especially action with a clear purpose.
See it if Peter Brook story-telling at its most minimal and fable-like. Meditative and a calm unfolding. Solid cast and thoughtful story.
Don't see it if No magic, no pulse. Ideas and suggestions but no passion. Not hypnotic but sleep inducing. Not recommended.
See it if You enjoy non-traditional and diverse casts who take up roles that are not stereotyped or cliched.
Don't see it if If you want anything like a cohesive narrative. Some elements of the plot are gratuitous and P. Brooks can't write convincing, 3D women.
See it if I honestly can’t think of a reason. The acting is decent but there is no material to speak of. Staging is decent but not a masterpiece
Don't see it if You are a discerning theatergoer. It tries to overwhelm you with its self importance to distract you from its utter lack of...well..anything
See it if You appreciate a masterful play presented as a thought provoking allegory. Great acting and unusual staging adds meaning to presentation.
Don't see it if You don’t appreciate serious and uncomfortable thought provoking issues.
See it if stagecraft holds more importance than plot. Directorially, Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne conjure up magic on this fairly bare stage.
Don't see it if you simply refuse to tolerate a plot in which incest between a father and daughter is presented as a love defying cultural norms. WTF!
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